The Chinese student in Canada was speaking on the phone with her parents back home, discussing the possibility of them sending next year's tuition fees and living expenses in advance.
The reason? Growing worries that the Chinese government will place more restrictions on sending money out of the country.
Currently, Chinese citizens are limited to sending $50,000 per year. While that is certainly sufficient to cover tuition and living expenses for most programs in Canada, the Chinese government could reduce this amount at any time.
Canada's international education sector relies heavily on students from China. As we reported last fall, post-secondary and K-12 programs are particularly dependent on students from that country. International educators should be concerned about a number of trends in China.
China's president Xi Jinping became president for life last year, allowing him to exert even greater control over the population. Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister, recently stated: "China does not accept the values that underpin the current liberal international order. They are not compatible with China's domestic political order."
It has only been since 1978 that China began letting its citizens go abroad. That may seem like ancient history to Canadians, but in Chinese terms it's just a blip in time for a culture that goes back thousands of years. At any moment, China could change its policy and put restrictions on overseas travel.
The Chinese government must balance its relentless drive to control its citizens with the desire of many leaders (including those in the Communist party) for an overseas education for their children. President Xi wants greater creativity and innovation to power the economy in the coming decades. However, citizens educated in the west may not always be willing to toe the party line.
Anyone who follows the news will be aware that Canada-China relations have deteriorated, especially since the arrest (at the request of the US) of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last month. China has retaliated by arresting several Canadians.
"While China-Canada relations have hit a low point they may go even lower," Scott McKnight, a China expert at University of Toronto, told CTV News last month.
For Canadian education programs, it means that there is a risk that the flood of students from China may be reduced to a steady flow or even a trickle. It also means that Canadian institutions will need to dramatically increase recruitment in other countries to protect against that risk.
International student numbers grew significantly last year, with 495,000 people studying in Canada. However, there's no room for complacency. As one Canadian newspaper editor commented recently: "The greatest problem in this country is smugness." Let's not be smug. Instead, let's be smart. And work hard.