Today’s struggle could be tomorrow’s gift

Fri, Apr 1 2016


New Canadian. Role model. Lion heart.

Grace Zhang set a three-year goal. If she couldn’t make a life for herself in Canada, she would move back to China.

“Sometimes you feel like, Why am I here? I can do a better job in my home country,” says Grace. “You have to work hard to achieve your goals and eventually you will find success in your skills in Canada.”

Grace Zhang’s husband loved Canada so much that when they moved to Edmonton from China in 2008, they left everything behind. Their friends, family, careers and language skills were gone. People-person Grace was devastated. She lost confidence in herself, and hated being unable to go shopping or talk to other people. She wanted to go back to her human resources job in China. She just wanted to go back.

“One day I was thinking about my boy, who was one year old,” she said. “What would I say if he ever asked me, ‘Mom, why didn’t you stay in Canada?’—how can I answer that? ‘Because your mom didn’t want to start a new life? Because she didn’t have the confidence and courage to stay?’”

“ I like working with people, but I wondered if I could do it in Canada because I lost my language abilities.” 

Grace gave herself three years to make a go of her new life—to learn English, get an education and find a job. After studying basic English, she came to MacEwan University’s English as an Additional Language Preparation program. It was exciting, but also a struggle. Her motivation to succeed kept her going and in 2011, she was studying human resources management at MacEwan.

“Human resources management is my direction,” she says. “I like working with people, but I wondered if I could do it in Canada because I lost my language abilities.”

Building confidence in her new language wasn’t easy, but Grace was determined. She volunteered in the community, which led to full-time work at ASSIST Community Services Centre as a career and employment counsellor helping immigrants find work in Canada.

“I understand the challenges that immigrants face as well as the HR approaches used by employers,” she says.

At the end of her self-imposed timeline, Grace’s husband had a job as an IT software developer and she was working part time during her second year of the Human Resources Management program. They had bought a house, and she was also expecting her second child. “My life at that moment was full of happiness.” That happiness continues into her current work helping immigrants to Canada find work.

“Because of my HR background, my education and my experience as an immigrant, I can understand the challenges that immigrants face and most HR approaches used by employers,” she says. “So I combined this knowledge to find a better way to help my clients and their employers. I love this job.”

Today, almost 10 years after leaving one home behind, Grace and her family have made a new one—a home she helped build through strength and perseverance.

Grace Zhang is an alumna from the School of Continuing Education. Find out more at