By NICO GOUS
Saving the planet is personal for Hai Lin Wang.
“Preserving the environment means that I am preserving the landscapes that shaped my identity,” the 23-year-old said.
Growing up in Handan in China’s Hebei province, those landscapes were her grandparent’s apricot farm. This changed when her parents emigrated to Canada and settled in the small town of Brockville, Ontario.
“We would go on hikes with my family and just witnessing Canadian nature," she recalled in an interview. "I found that there is a connection between these two countries.”
Hai Lin, also known as Helen, sought refuge in nature when she felt left out as a Chinese immigrant.
“No matter where I go, nature will always be familiar," she said. "It will never be this foreign thing for me to have to adjust to.”
In the rural town of about 20,000 people, Wang experienced a different side of Canada than the Chinese immigrants who grew up in cosmopolitan Vancouver or Toronto.
“Growing up in a small town, you’re exposed to a lot of the harsher sides of Canada," she said. "You can see there is a cycle of poverty and a lack of job opportunities.”
Wang graduated in 2019 from the University of Toronto, where she studied ecology, evolution and biodiversity. She returned to China in August to join the Global Business Journalism master's program at Tsinghua University.
“Essentially, I have the best of both worlds. When I emigrated to Canada, I absorbed a lot of Western culture,” Wang said. “I’m here at GBJ to really enhance the more Chinese part of myself, because I have been Western for so long.”
Wang, whose hobbies include reading and baking, hopes to improve her storytelling skills during her two years in Global Business Journalism. She wants to continue helping others while covering environmental issues through writing, photography, infographics and other media. She honed her skills from May to August 2019 when she wrote about environmental issues for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) blog.
“They [the NCC] approach nature as something for people to enjoy," she said. "They didn’t categorize nature as something isolated from humans.”
HELEN IN QUOTES
“I really like Asian-American vloggers. They showed me that as an Asian-American/Canadian girl living in the city, there are many different identities you can have. You don’t have to fit the mould of what an Asian-American/Canadian should be. Usually that is you get super good grades.” Her Eminem connection:
“I was born on the same day as Eminem. I share the same birthday as Eminem, but in different years, obviously.”
Classic novels and her 10th grade English teacher:
"I had this perception that classics there are to bore you. But after that class, I guess I just had a really passionate teacher, he showed us that classics are actually a reflection of life. And its reflection of life back in that time period and that it can even be applicable today."