Xiaoyi Dong has made strides since moving to Halifax for an arts education. Known as Patrice to her Canadian friends and teachers, she's found a medium she loves and confidence as a community leader.
Dong is a second-year graphic design student at NSCAD, and is the international student representative on SUNSCAD, the school's student union. Originally from Weihai, China, Dong came to Canada for the same reason many of Halifax's Chinese residents do: An education.
"I used to be more shy and didn't talk to anyone I didn't know. I didn't like events, but now I've become another person. Every time I tell my friends I was really shy, they don't believe me," she says. "Now I organize lots of events and have confidence to talk to new people."
She emphasizes the importance of engaging in the culture.
"Sometimes if we're shy and don't want to talk to people it will create a barrier, so I think the key is to at least say, 'Hi, how are you' and try to start a conversation."
Dong's newfound confidence comes from the sense of responsibility she has for her peers. "I need to act as a role model," she says. "I need to talk more and be confident, and I can show others that in this way you can join this community and be a part of it."
One of the biggest challenges facing international students in the arts is life after graduation. "International students feel there are less opportunities in Halifax," says Dong, "so when they graduate they go to bigger cities like Toronto and Vancouver for jobs."
As for herself, Dong's goal is to work locally in Halifax after graduation, and she's eager to travel the world.
"Design requires more experience and insights, so I think I have to get different knowledge and different perspectives from different countries," she says.
Art, however, is something you can enjoy regardless of language. "I think it's a challenge for me to understand and get used to the lifestyle here," she says. "From my perspective I think arts are international. There are less barriers because we all use visual elements to communicate."