I was born in Shenyang, a city in the Northeast part of China with about 8 million people, and have lived there for the first 19 years of my life. Summer is not very hot, but winter gets unbelievably cold. Shenyang has a long history: it was once the capital of China during Qing Dynasty; it had suffered from war but has recovered from it; it has been an important industrial center in transition; it has 41 ethnic minority groups living in the city, and the city government legally recognizes five religious beliefs–Buddhism, Taoism, Islamism, Catholicism and Protestantism. If I were to describe the characters of Shenyang, I would say it is very open, diverse, and tolerant. It has a place for everyone, and it has always welcomed people from different cultures.

My whole family lives there, and so do many of my childhood friends. High school was one of the times most unforgettable for me, as it probably is for many of you. The different part of my story is that I was living in a dormitory–since all students were required to do so. I remembered well those days with countless laughter and fights, when 8 of us adolescent girls of different characters all sharing the same dorm.

At the age of 19, I passed the National Higher Education Examination and was accepted by a university in Shanghai. Arriving in Shanghai, I was so surprised, or you may even say shocked, by the prosperity of this city. With a population of 2.5 billion, Shanghai is truly the most populous economic center of mainland China. After spending 4 years in Shanghai, I still didn’t experience all aspects of the city. It has countless shops, restaurants, cultural sites, entertainment facilities, an amazing extensive public transportation system, and a very quirk yet balanced coexistence of this “modern new world” and the “old relics”. I love this city so much, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see what modern China looks like.

Pursuing further education in Canada is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Living in Windsor, Ontario allowed me to experience North American life and to see other possibilities in my life. The friendly, open-minded Canadian people around me has inspired me to slow down my pace, and to switch my life focus from earning big money to spending time with the people and the things I love. I can feel the change: I became more mellow and considerate. This is also when and where I met my husband.

Upon accepting his new job, my husband and I moved to Cleveland together in April 2016. While he worked as a technical support person for a software company, I found a job as a program associate person at Global Cleveland. Half a year later, I am deeply attached to both the city, and this organization. Cleveland is also an open, diverse, and tolerant city with great vitality, just like my hometown Shenyang. Every day, I am learning more about the cultural, historical aspects of this city, and getting amazed by the theaters, the magnificent buildings in downtown area, and the friendly people I met. It is reassuring for me, as an immigrant, to realize that there is a large immigration group here in Cleveland, and I feel very engaged because of all the existing Chinese communities and organizations. Cleveland had its time when the manufacturing industry is prosperous and relied on, and then inevitably experienced the loss of job and the economic downturn when stepping into the new age—surprisingly again, just like my hometown. Like most people I met, I see the possibilities and opportunities here in Cleveland. And I have no doubt that with all the friendly hardworking people, the people with good will and a hope for better future, this city will rise again.

Global Cleveland, a nonprofit with the mission of attracting, welcoming and connecting international newcomers to economic and social opportunities in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, is working together with many other nonprofits of the same goal towards Cleveland’s revival. Every day, the people at Global Cleveland work hard to make Cleveland a friendlier place for people from other cities, states, and countries. We talk to individual international students and immigrants who have been here for decades; we educate employers and companies on the importance of immigration and assist them with the international hiring process; and we work closely with colleges and universities to present workshops, events and seminars on a variety of immigration-related topics. I feel very lucky to be part of this team, and I am proud to contribute in this process of “making a difference”.

Cleveland is my new home now. My husband and I had purchased a house, brought in our Canadian cats, and adopted a dog from the Summit Humane Society—so pretty much settled in. We are enjoying our little multi-cultural home, as well as our life in Cleveland. Like most other Clevelanders, we have high hopes in this city and expect that, someday, we will witness a more prosperous, more diverse, and more living Cuyahoga County.


Written By: Wenzhu Sun