For one Kwantlen student, welcoming the Year of the Rabbit was emotional in a different way than usual.
Elaine Wang, president of the Chinese Student Association, celebrated the most important Chinese festival away from her family for the first time in her life.
“It makes me want to cry,” she said. “I got up earlier and [Skyped] with my family and we count down together.”
Wang immigrated to Canada less than a year and a half ago to study at Kwantlen, while living with her uncle in Richmond.
For Wang, this Chinese New Year spent away from family in China marked an opportunity to work with the KSA and open up Chinese culture to the students of Kwantlen. Wang says that it is also a way to bring a sense of community to other Chinese students who might be missing family back in China.
“Kwantlen is just like a home for us… Kwantlen is big family for us. So, we want the students to feel less lonely,” she said. “They are not alone, they are with us… we are all family members in continent.”
The group set up tables and handed out pork buns and sweet treats, traditional Chinese delicacies which are often eaten in the celebration of the New Year, to students at the Richmond, Surrey and Langley campuses on Feb. 3.
“We tried to choose items that would respect the traditional Chinese New Year aspect of it and something that all students could eat and try,” said Reena Bali, director of events and student life for the KSA.
Although Wang is happy to spend the celebration of the Year of the Rabbit in Vancouver with her friends and her uncle, it is difficult for her to be without her parents at a time that is “just like Christmas in Canada.”
“Yesterday, I even worked last night. I work at a restaurant and I see a lot of families who are immigrants. They get together and they celebrated… and the parents gave children red envelopes. I felt so sad because I was all alone here.”
In China, red envelopes, which usually contain money, are given by elders to children and family members to represent good fortune to come in the New Year.
“My grandfather said ‘I will keep the red envelope for you. If you go back China, I will give you,’ so it make me very happy,” she said.