Forty years ago this week, a group of nine nervous students arrived at Ottawa's Uplands Airport to begin a remarkable journey.
The students were from the People's Republic of China. That doesn't sound like a big deal now; there are currently more than 50,000 Chinese students studying at Canadian universities.
But it was a very big deal back then.
These students were the first from the People's Republic to attend ANY university in North America.
In China in 1973, Mao Tse Tung's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was winding down. The country was slowly beginning to emerge from its ideological cocoon and turn its face to the the world. But the Cultural Revolution had left Chinese universities in shambles, its economy stuck in a previous century, and its young people unfamiliar with life outside their country's borders.
So the students who arrived that day had a lot to learn. They would be spending the next few years at Carleton University. Professors there would take care of the academic side of their education. But teaching them about life in 20th century Canada would be the responsibility of a small network of people who lived and worked with them in their first months in Canada, and who wound up learning as much as they taught.
This is the story of that remarkable experience, told by the people, both Chinese and Canadian, who were part of it. They include future diplomats, a future Premier of Ontario, and one future Sunday Edition contributor named Ira Basen.
Listen to the documentary by Ira and check out the photo gallery below, which includes images of the students and teachers and one of young Ira.