Sherry Ren pursues nursing dreams in Nova Scotia
Sherry Ren was born and raised in Qingdao, China — a coastal city facing the Korean Peninsula across the Yellow Sea. After graduating from a local university in 2012 with a Bachelor of Education, she did not see herself working at a dead-end teaching job in her hometown for the next 30 years. Ren believed that there was so much more in the world than her little corner could provide, so the adventurer in her started a new life overseas.
It was natural for Ren to choose Nova Scotia as she wanted to settle somewhere near the ocean. “I don’t care for the clamour of megacities like Toronto. I love Nova Scotia for the mild winters, the ocean and the super-friendly people. I would choose this province again if time goes back,” says Ren.
She first landed in Sydney in 2012 and lived with a local host family. The close bond that Ren developed with her Cape Breton hosts transcended culture and language. “It has been four years since I left Sydney for Halifax. But they are still my Canadian family,” says Ren. The homestay experience helped improve her spoken English and experience local culture to its fullest. Basking in the comfort of a breezy Nova Scotian summer, it was easy for Ren to make the decision to permanently settle here.
With the help of her host family, Ren applied for the Continuing Care Program at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Marconi Campus in 2013. She was immediately accepted and gained her Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) certificate in 2014. She has worked as a CCA ever since. “I was drawn to this field because my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. I wanted to become a care provider for her and others like her,” says Ren.
While we often applaud doctors and nurses, CCAs, also known as Personal Support Workers (PSWs), are the unsung heroes in healthcare. With an aging population in Nova Scotia, the province needs more CCAs than ever. Not only do they improve the quality of patient care, their work also enhances patient safety with closer monitoring. “I love being able to make a difference, however small it is, in people’s lives,” says Ren.
Ren moved from Sydney to Halifax in 2016 and has been working at Shannex Maplestone Enhanced Care. She applied for Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) through the Nova Scotia Provincial Nominee Program in 2018, but did not get her application approved until more than a year later. “They usually are able to process the application within six months. But I made a mistake when filling out my background information. I should have triple checked everything before filing my application,” says Ren.
Ren mentions her difficulty as a cautionary tale for future PR applicants as it is not uncommon for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to reject applications due to incomplete or wrong information for something as small as a misspelling. For those who filed their PR application within the past year, delays in application processing times are also common due to the pandemic.
“I love being able to make a difference, however small it is, in people’s lives.”
Being a tenacious dreamer, Ren does not believe she’s reached the zenith of her career. In early 2020, she embarked on a new endeavor to become a registered nurse (RN). To transition from a CCA to an RN, Ren is required to complete an undergraduate nursing program. She aspires to gain admission to the two-year fast-track nursing program at Dalhousie University. There are several prerequisite courses that she will have to take before she can apply. Therefore, she started to work part-time while dedicating the rest of her time to studying.
As the grisly COVID-19 virus rampaged the world this year, Ren did not put a stop to her plans. Unflinchingly, she went to work each day while sticking to her study schedule. “I was a bit scared, but I know God wants me to do good by standing my ground,” says Ren, who is a devout Christian.
During this unprecedented time of uncertainty and loss, Ren has managed to juggle work, school and a personal life. “It is not easy. But planning and trying my best to stick with my plans helps,” says Ren, who finds clear goals and definitive plans immensely motivating. “I think it is important to slow down and relax sometimes. I like to read books, watch movies and hang out with my friends. Although I don’t get much free time, I do enjoy every second of it.” For Ren, making time to wind down after a busy day enables her to better tackle the next.
When Ren came to the province eight years ago, she knew absolutely nobody. But she has built herself an empowering social circle over the years. “Building a support network is important. I have some good friends and a very supportive fiance. He provides emotional comfort and helps me with household chores when I am busy.” Ren, like many newcomers who arrive in the city as a stranger, found that developing a robust support network was critical for her mental health and personal achievement.
“My biggest aspiration is to become a registered nurse,” says Ren. Being a lifelong learner, she believes in continuously seeking out opportunities to further her education in healthcare. As for her personal life, she wants to build a family with her fiance.
While Nova Scotia has seen record-breaking numbers of immigrants during recent years, more and more young people are choosing to settle here with the hope of fulfilling their dreams. Ren shows us that with unwavering effort, anything is possible in this land of opportunity.
“I have great hope and confidence in my future in Halifax. As we can all see, the city is growing in popularity, both economically and socially.”