Sometimes the more something costs, the more you gain from it

Sunnio Zeng
By Sunnio Zeng April 21, 2018 21:07

Sometimes the more something costs, the more you gain from it

By Sunnio Zeng

“I think everyone should try your best to do something, to make a difference to your surroundings, because in order to make this world a better place to live, this is part of the reason why we came to a world,” Abi Xu said.

Xu, 30, is an international student from China who came to the University of Windsor two years ago to study teaching. Before she came to Windsor, she was an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) teacher in China. IELTS is the English-language assessment system used to teach and gauge proficiency for studying abroad.

After came to Windsor, Xu still maintained her passion in education. During an occasional dinner with her friends, she came to realize there was a lack of people here who could teach Mandarin.

The children of Chinese immigrants, who moved to Canada with their parents, have picked up English as their first language. However, many parents still want their children to learn Mandarin to maintain a connection with their traditional culture.

But they can’t find reliable teachers and classes. When Xu heard the news, she immediately decided to become a volunteer. She signed up for the training to become a teacher of Mandarin and passed quickly. At that time, Chinese teachers did not draw any salary — the lessons were free.

Abbi Xu holds Mandarin classes for Canadian children in Windsor. (Photo by Sunnio Zeng)

“Also, at the same time, I got the kind of teaching position in Mandarin training school in Windsor, I delivered around two hours of Mandarin lessons to the kids in Windsor every Sunday afternoon. They are very adorable and cute, I was amazed. This awesome,” Xu said.

She had been teaching Chinese for two years in this community and was thinking many Chinese students wouldn’t be able stick with it because it meant giving away their time every weekend. The life of many Chinese students is divided into two parts: the first is spending a lot of time on studying to get higher grades. The second is going out with friends in their spare time, shopping, travelling, watching movies and so on.

Abbi Xu also holds English classes for Mandarin-speaking adults. (Photo by Sunnio Zeng)

Now, Xu is facing graduation and her time is also limited and valuable as she balances school and volunteer work.

“Most of time, I think I have a lot of stuff to do.… My schedule is very tight, because usually on weekdays, I just work very hard on my thesis. On weekends, I try my best just one more time doing community service, like teaching Mandarin lessons and teaching senior people English.”

She also talks about her experience as a volunteer in China.

“I’m doing volunteering jobs since 2007, which is long time and probably more than 10 years ago, as a freshman in university. I got an opportunity to do something at that time,” she said, explaining that she went to a public English area where she got to meet kids, senior citizens and also a businessman and woman. She went every Wednesday evening to spend time teaching Mandarin.

Now, aside from teaching Mandarin to children here, she also teaches English to the senior citizens here on weekends.

Abbi Xu designed a six-week program to teach Mandarin-speaking adults some basic English. (Photo by Sunnio Zeng)

They basically live alone in their own apartments. Most of their children got up the courage to leave everything to immigrate to Canada with the grandchildren, attracted by the good living conditions in Canada and the possibility of offering the children a better future.

But the only obstacle is the language barrier, which makes it difficult for the older generation to integrate quickly into the lives of native Canadians.

When Xu knew about their difficulties, she again devoted into volunteer work. After two years, many volunteers went away, because they found that no matter how they taught the old people to learn English, they would never learn how to use English to communicate with others, and sometimes the seniors’ tempers were not very good. Xu is the only person who could adhere to this work for two years.

“Most of them were in their 70s and some or in their 80s, they are very senior people. I designed around a six-week program and we learned some basic English expressions. They think English is very important, they would like to know more. And they want to use English to communicate to local people. They are very kind, friendly,” Xu said.

And she explained, “most of this group of senior people have been living Canada for more than five years, and some of them have been living in Canada for more than 10 years.… They have been living here for so long, long, long time. They are try their best to assimilate into the mainstream culture; however, due to their age and house condition, it’s challenge for them to integrate into society.”

In this community, I also met Daisy Liu, a good friend of Xu’s, who also volunteers to teach English to the elders.

“Maybe sometimes you teach them once time, but they can’t understand you totally, so you need you teach them once and once again. So, I think of Abi during that time, she has done a great job, because she is so patient with the older seniors and she can teach them more than 10 times,” Liu said.

I asked her to recall any memorable moments during her time of giving free education for the two communities. She became excited and told me two warm stories.

“A Canadian boy in my Mandarin lesson, he came to me and told me, ‘我明白中文了,’ which means I can understand what Chinese is like. I was so touched. Chinese is not easy to learn, but Chinese is one of the most of beautiful language in the world. Chinese is not easy thing for kids to learn, they are very young age.… He began to show more interest in this language, he would like to explore more in this language, possibly the culture behind it.”

The other unforgettable in her life involved a senior citizen in her English as a Second Language program.

“He came to me and told me, ‘Because I was at very senior age, I have no confidence.’ I just try to encourage him a lot. And after several months, he just came to me, ‘You know Abi, I was really impressed by your lesson. I went to learn English and I attend the lesson at my first lesson year. I got totally confident after your lesson, I realized I could probably master English in my future,’” Xu said.

When I heard these two unforgettable moments, my eyes were moist. I don’t know why, but I seem to understand the situation of these Chinese people who have moved into a completely unfamiliar environment. They are trying to become accustomed to the environment, but the high cost they paid, perhaps no other people can understand. Maybe these old people will be happy all day merely because they learn a short English sentence or even one more new word, and they want to share their happiness with others.

I think this world is not lacking in teachers, but there is a lack of such teachers as Xu, who is willing to use sincerity and not expect anything in return. Just as the old one said, “The rose is in her hand, the flavor in mine.” This means the warm smell will slowly rise, diffuse and cover the hearts of both the giver and the recipient. The education Xu gives for free not only helps others, but also makes her feel satisfied and feel the real value of her life. Xu is not only teaching knowledge to students, but is also imparting spiritual encouragement and, most importantly, the true meaning of selfless dedication.


St. Clair College’s international students at the Mediaplex (most of whom do not speak English as a first language) took on the enormous task of researching and writing feature-length stories. For their final projects ─ we call them capstones ─ they explored topics that intrigued them. They all brought unique perspectives to their stories. We hope you enjoy reading their work and seeing Windsor through their eyes.

Sunnio Zeng
By Sunnio Zeng April 21, 2018 21:07

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