Nicole’s Interview with Joyce He

Nicole Wu

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Joyce grew up in Canton, Guangdong in China before moving to Vancouver, Canada at the age of 28. I met her as one of my mother’s friends. She grew up in a loving and supportive environment which led to her decision in immigrating to Canada. Before moving to Canada, Joyce studied at the University of Beijing where she received a bachelor’s degree in business. In the beginning of the move, learning English, going to college classes here and there, and balancing a work life was tough on Joyce. She took up a few part-time jobs in restaurants and eventually her hard work paid off as she is now an insurance advisor.  

Moving to a Foreign Country 

“… the moment I moved here, I had to work and support myself and grow up independently and I don’t need my parent’s money. But I worked 2 part-time jobs, but I also take the ESL and that ESL can advance me in my college courses.”  (16:41)

I asked Joyce how she felt about moving to Canada where she didn’t know how to speak a lot of English. The most challenging thing for her was grasping the English language. In the beginning, while taking English classes in community colleges, she was also balancing part-time jobs. Unfortunately, she faced discrimination in that environment due to her lack of fluency in English.  

“… you know at that time even though my English is not good right now but at that time it was poorer, so when you take orders, sometimes you might not understand very clear, so I do feel … yeah I do feel … something uncomfortable, yeah.” (21:19)

In the article, “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Sing”, Kit Yuen Quan mentions her parents’ experience moving to California as foreigners, “at the dinner table after a day of toiling at their jobs and struggling with English, they aired their frustrations about the racism and discrimination they were feeling everywhere: after jobs, on the bus, at the supermarket” (Quan, 14). Most foreigners will face discrimination when moving to different countries. To overcome the discrimination, Joyce didn’t let the humiliation faze her, she practiced more English, took more classes, and eventually got onto a higher caliber with her English. 

Socioeconomic Status and Upbringing 

“You know, at the time, the economy boost, so we can … we have more … chances to go abroad so I can see the different parts of the world, so this is why at the end, I decided to come to Canada. And also, it’s because the people living in China, they have more money and then they can support the children to university. So, in my generation, … especially in my city, I lived in Canton right, Guangdong. People do business and they earn more money so they can support their children to gain higher education. So that really helped.” (11:06)

In the Ruling Class and the Buffer Zone, Paul Kivel mentions, “Working hard usually does make a difference in one’s life. But it makes a crucial difference where one starts and what educational, cultural, social, political, and economic resources a person has available to them” (Kivel, 3). He is trying to say that someone who grows up in a more privileged socioeconomic household would reap more benefits compared to someone who has had less advantages. Fortunately, for Joyce, during her upbringing, China was starting to peak with the development of their economy – it was their most successful period. Because of the rise in the economy, Joyce had the privilege of being able to afford to go off to university and eventually move to Canada.  

A Woman in the Workplace 

“When I was a little girl, I, there’s a moment where I feel my parents would more prefer boys, like my younger brother.” (12:20)

Growing up, Joyce did realize China’s misogynistic views early on with her family favoring her brother over her. As someone who is also from a Chinese family, I find the favoritism for boys extremely obvious. However, this did not stop Joyce in doing her best to succeed. I asked her if she has ever experienced discrimination in the workplace before, and this is what she had to say…  

“I got promoted very quick [inaudible] they promote me because I had the ability … and I done my job well. So, I feel like I’m treated equally, even in the working environment.” (13:32)

Overall, she was treated with respect and in work, she was treated based on her abilities to get the job done. However, when I asked her if she has ever been discriminated against as a woman in her part-time jobs, she answered…  

“Not very often but it happened, yeah.” (21:09)

Final Thoughts 

As Amy Tan describes in her story, Mother Tongue, “It has always bothered me that I can think of no way to describe it other than ‘broken,’ as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as if it lacked a certain wholeness and soundness” (Tan, 255). I think this can summarize how Joyce felt about her English when she first moved here. Her story is a very humbling and inspirational one as she worked hard to get to where she is now. I am honored to have gotten the opportunity to interview her and listen to her story. 

Work Cited 

Tan, Amy. Mother Tongue, by Amy Tan – Mother Tongue. 1990,

Kivel, Paul. “The Ruling Class and the Buffer Zone.” Paul Kivel,  

Quan, Kit Yuen. The Girl Who Wouldn’t Sing. 2004, file:///Users/nicolewu/Downloads/the_girl_who_wouldnt_sing%20(1).PDF