U of A Students Celebrate Asian Heritage Month

UAlberta International - 25 April 2020

Statement by Minister Chagger on Asian Heritage Month 2021

For the month of May, Canada celebrates Asian History Month, a time for all Canadians to learn about the contributions and achievements of Asian-Canadians who have done so much to make Canada a wonderful country!

The 2021 theme for Asian Heritage Month is “Recognition, Resilience and Resolve,” which exemplifies the many Asian-Canadians’ experiences to honour their diverse stories grounded in resilience and perseverance.

We asked four Asian international students currently studying at UAlberta to share how this year’s theme relates to their lived experiences in Canada.

Aonan He - China

As an international student from China, Chinese food is always what relieves me from nostalgia, which is also what Edmonton makes me proud of. As part of the Edmontonian culture, the Asian food culture contributes not only to the diversity of the food categories but also to a certain lifestyle. It has become a local custom that groups of people prefer to hang out together in a teahouse and chat over bubble tea. Hotpot restaurants are becoming one of the most convenient places for those who cannot decide what to eat or have food allergies to specific kinds. It is always easy to satisfy everyone’s needs in a hotpot place, given tons of options to choose from. More importantly, we have T&T, the largest Asian grocery store in Edmonton that offers a great variety of foods, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and other Southeast Asian foods. Every time I go to T&T, I feel like I'm visiting home.

As a Chinese living in Edmonton, I also take pride in bringing new friends to Chinese restaurants and introducing them to some of my favourite places and foods. Through food, we share thoughts about our different cultural backgrounds and lifestyles, recognizing the diversity reflected in the food we have is precisely what makes Edmonton, a shared community, a better place to live.

About Aonan:

My name is Aonan He, and I am from China. I study English and Political Science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. I love the hospitality of the people and the Dirty Chai in Edmonton.

Avash Puri - Nepal

Edmonton is home to vibrant, young, and diverse communities. Nepalese community shares a small piece of that diversity. Nepalese entrepreneurs, especially those in the foodservice and hospitality industry, have introduced delicious Nepali cuisine in the city. In addition to cultural diversity, Nepalese scholars continue to contribute to the development of science and art in Canada. They bring their diverse and unique perspectives in different sectors, which helps to foster an inclusive environment.

One of the core values that the Nepalese community believes in is ‘Unity in Diversity.' I am proud to share the same value with the wider Edmonton and Canadian communities. Canada offers a unique global diversity that not only adds value but also provides an opportunity to learn, unlearn, and grow. In my past couple of years in Edmonton, I have been fortunate to understand and learn about several other cultures, which have broadened my perspective on health, well-being, and society. This shared feeling of community, a celebration of diversity, and inclusiveness make Edmonton a home away from home.

About Avash:

Avash originally hails from Nepal. He is graduating this year with a master’s degree in public health. He loves being outdoors, especially walking around the Edmonton river valley and exploring the Alberta hiking trails.

Truc (Tina) Huynh - Vietnam

I have been in Canada for about eight years now, and I love the welcoming, outgoing vibe from everyone.

I love how I can go for a walk along the river valley in Edmonton, saying hello to everyone along the way and asking: "How are you?". Like Canadians, Vietnamese people are very outgoing, and we love making connections, especially gathering to celebrate the festival together.

In the Vietnamese community, Lunar New Year is the most exciting and anticipating festival that the Vietnamese community shares with Canadians. Every year, I join hundreds of Edmontonians at Truc Lam monastery to celebrate Lunar New Year. Everyone loves coming together and wishing each other a healthy and happy life. In trade-off to these wishes, red and gold pockets containing money are given out to children, family members, and friends as a symbol of good luck. Secondly, you get to see traditional dance and lion dance happening during the gathering. During this time, you also see some traditional food like sticky rice or people call them “Banh tet” being sold at the market.

On top of sharing the rituals of celebrating Lunar New Year, Westlock Meditation Center is one of the greatest architectural contributions from the Vietnamese community to Alberta. Driving along the two rows of the evergreen trees on the way in, you arrive at one of the earliest buildings at Westlock Meditation Center. Looking to the right side, you see the bronze Buddha statue standing, representing the symbol of mindfulness and reminding people of the importance of seeking peace in life. Walking along the row of trees down the lake to the left, you run into a peaceful view with another 50-foot-tall Buddha statue as a symbol of awakening. Every year, many Edmontonian and tourists from around the world come to Westlock Meditation Center for a summer retreat to learn about meditation, practice mindfulness and Buddhism.

About Truc:

Hello, my name is Truc, and I am an international student from Vietnam. I recently graduated with an Honors Psychology Bachelor’s degree at the University of Alberta. My favourite thing about Edmonton is the view of the river valley in Edmonton, where I can bike along and enjoy the view during the summer. 😊

Gurbani Baweja - India

Every South Asian has their own story and a sense of belonging to Edmonton. They showcase an admirable resilience from things as trivial as muddling through the harsh weather and as acute as dealing with homesickness. The resilience and robustness of this community provide hope and motivation to many immigrants and international students like myself to make our dreams come true and celebrate Edmonton as our new home.

The South Asian community is involved in diverse fields of work like healthcare, politics, education, technology, hospitality, business etc. The presence of South Asians in various workstreams made me extremely proud of the South Asian community when I arrived in Canada. However, something that I was, and still am, the proudest about is the welcoming attitude of my community and its assent towards inclusivity.

Religion holds a principal value in the South Asian community; it is incredible to see how they have built their places of worship all across Canada, retaining their religious beliefs and faith. Some of these places of worship offer exceptional services to help those in need, benefiting Canada’s society as a whole.

The Sikh Community particularly runs multiple community-based charity initiatives that are open to people from all races and religious backgrounds. The backbone of these community-based initiatives is Seva, i.e., selfless service and langar, i.e., free food. The Sikh Community across Edmonton and multiple parts of Alberta and Canada stands by the diverse communities through free food services. The Sikh Community works tirelessly to bring food to the table to achieve inclusivity and oneness within the society. Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples) provide langar, and the community members also run initiatives like food bank trucks to eradicate hunger, thus benefiting many vulnerable communities.

Just like the Sikh Community, all South Asians across Edmonton work tirelessly in their respective areas of work to bring positive changes in people’s lives so that they may do the same for those around them.

About Gurbani:

Gurbani is a third-year software engineering student at the U of A. She was born in New Delhi, India, and she came to Canada a couple of years ago to pursue her degree. She is also the Vice President External of the International Students’ Association (ISA). She loves the River Valley, which especially highlights the tranquillity of Edmonton.