A search for adventure brought Huiling Zhuang, along with her husband and baby Shuya, to Canada from her home in Qingdao, China, in 2003. “We were young. We just wanted to try new things and new opportunities.” She and her husband, then both 28, studied English for two months in Vancouver, even though she had taught English as a Foreign Language in a university in China. “I needed to learn the culture,” she explains.
They returned to China, and then immigrated to Halifax where she earned her Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, with a focus on curriculum studies, at Mount Saint Vincent University. While still a student, she received an Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia work placement as an Educational Program Assistant at Pier 21. Her husband’s work placement led to a fulfilling job at SoulutionInc, a telecommunications company that needed help entering the Chinese market.
Huiling’s commitment to learning the nuances of the English language paid off, as a few months after graduation she became an instructor in the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia Family Learning Program. She now instructs English as an Additional Language (EAL), teaching a literacy class and a low-level mainstream English class with 15 to 20 students in each. “At the beginning it was challenging. I worked hard so that I would do my best.” The cheerful and outgoing Huiling says she was thrilled to present to tutors of low-level English learners. “I was so happy to share with them. I could tell Canadians something!”
Her commitment extends also to her church where she started a program to teach Chinese language to Chinese children and, realizing that Chinese seniors were having difficulty learning English, designed a program and textbook for them. “I see the needs and I want to do something. I feel happy helping people.” She now manages the program, having trained her assistant to teach. Huiling teaches Sunday School there and volunteers at her daughter’s school. Although she knows that Shuya, now 11, will have a better future here, she hopes she will feel a sense of belonging to both cultures. “Immigration is not an easy process for anyone. The culture is difficult.” Huiling misses her brother in China, although last year she sponsored her parents to come here.
She’s content now focusing on family and jobs. “I love working here. People respect and celebrate diversity. My manager gives me lots of opportunities and guides me.” And she appreciates the beautiful landscapes and the distinctive seasons. “I love the friends my family has made here, as well as the community spirit.” She has faith that life will work out. “We believe there is a purpose and we can survive. We’ll work hard and be nice to people around us.”