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"I love it here!" Alumni from China choose to make Halifax home

Posted by Erin Elaine Casey on December 11, 2017 in Students, Alumni & Friends, News

(L-R) Wendi Zhao, Yinrong Zhao, Yu Sun, Shiying Liu, Pengpeng Jiang

On a cool evening in mid-November, international Bachelor of Commerce and Management students filled a Rowe Building lecture hall to learn the success secrets of five Chinese alumni now living and working in Halifax.

The panel discussion was moderated by Lokiy Wang, International Student and Alumni Specialist in the Rowe School of Business, and covered everything from finding quality co-op work terms to effective networking and making friends with domestic students.

“Moving to a country with a completely different culture and language to complete a university degree at the age of 18 is not an easy task,” says Ms. Wang. “International students who stay after graduation tend to be very determined, hard-working and can quickly adjust to a different or challenging environment.”

All five panellists graduated in spring 2017 and have chosen to establish themselves in Halifax. Four of them—Yu Sun, Yinrong Zhao, Wendi Zhao and Pengpeng Jiang—work for Citco, which provides a broad range of financial services worldwide. Shiying Liu works at ADP Canada, which specializes in payroll services, human resources management and tax benefits for businesses of all sizes.

Pengpeng Jiang is from Tianjin, a city of 15 million in northern China, and Shiying Liu is from a smaller city in the southwestern Yunnan Province. Both are accounting majors, and were initially attracted to Dalhousie’s Bachelor of Commerce by the co-op program and the opportunity to graduate with meaningful work experience. “Even before coming to Canada, I knew I wanted to emigrate and start my career here,” says Ms. Jiang. “In China, students don’t usually work at all, so I think it’s really beneficial to have a co-op program.”

For Ms. Liu, the decision to stay in Halifax was a little more difficult. “It was not easy. We have to consider all the issues, and take time to think about it. It’s a long way from home—I have to spend 20 hours of flight time alone.”

Both women joke that they were perhaps slightly misled by the posted average yearly temperature in Halifax of 12 to 15C. “It’s not true!” laughs Ms. Liu.

True or not, both Liu and Jiang have found both personal and professional success in their new home, just six months after graduating. As a payroll coordinator, Liu enjoys serving clients and putting her love of math to good use. “I know the culture now. I like the size of Halifax. All my working relationships are here. Why go to Toronto? Everyone here is really kind and does their best to help you. Halifax is a good place for international students to stay.”

Jiang, an operation analyst at Citco, agrees. “I love it here—it feels like home. The minute I got here, the people were so nice. My parents were really, really worried, but I told them there was nothing to worry about. People talked to me, said good morning, helped me catch the bus. The community is so good. It’s also growing, and there’s more to do than you expect, so that’s also great.”

Of all the topics covered by the panellists, student audience members were most anxious to learn about networking and making local friendships and business connections. The first and most important thing, according to Liu, is to improve your communication skills.

“When I first came here, I was not very outgoing, but not now,” she smiles. “I had to change because I needed a good job. Try to do networking, and work with domestic students. It helps you find jobs and continue studying. In my work environment at ADP there are around 400 people and only about 20 are Chinese. This helps me learn more local culture and make local friends.”

International students can take advantage of a wide range of opportunities, including support from Management Career Services, a co-op and career services unit within the Faculty of Management, career fairs, exchange programs, case competitions, student societies, corporate tours, networking events and even sports teams.

“Put yourself out there!” says Jiang. “Sometimes people think too much, make up excuses and worry about what to do if things go wrong. Ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid, then go and do it! Creating opportunities and then seizing them is what I’ve been doing.”

Lokiy Wang emphasizes that international students bring valuable perspectives to the workplace and community. They may know a different language, understand an overseas market and have specialized knowledge of business environments in different cultures. 

“I never thought about leaving Halifax after graduation, and I did have interviews in other cities. Maybe in the future, I will go to a bigger city for a couple of years, but I think I will come back,” explains Jiang, sounding like a true Maritimer already. “It’s home for me, and I love it here.”