From teenage student to successful resident
Chinese migrant Monica Mu looks back at a journey of study and work that brought her to a new life in Auckland.
Monica Mu chose to study in New Zealand because it was an English-speaking country and the exchange rate was favourable at the time. An agency that assisted her student application recommended Auckland as New Zealand’s biggest city.
It was 2002 when Monica arrived from Dalian in China on a student visa. The first steps for the teenage newcomer were a three-month English language course, and a one-year foundation course to prepare herself for university studies.
Student visas allow part-time work and Monica found jobs by walking into restaurants and asking. “I pretty much did whatever jobs I could get. I did some waitressing, I did some language teaching for senior citizen Chinese here in New Zealand and I did some volunteer work.”
Monica opted for a psychology degree at Auckland University and after graduating, was initially given a six-month visa to look for work. She used mainstream sources such as websites Seek and Trade Me “just like everyone else,” to look for work, she says.
“I also went around letter-dropping and cold-calling. You have to be proactive and take the initial step. Once you overcome your fear, employers appreciate you for your personality and the way you interact with people. They also give you a lot of credit, seeing you with your CV prepared.”
A New Zealand policy change extended her visa to a year, and Monica found a job in the second half of that year. At a job expo she made contacts that led to her first fulltime job – in community mental health. “I found it very difficult at first but I loved every minute of it,” she says.
Monica feels she could have connected more with other students and expanded her network, which would have helped afterwards.
Among the challenges she faced, was learning about the working culture in New Zealand and adjusting. She feels that at university she focused too much on gaining her degree when she could have connected more with other students and expanded her network, which would have helped afterwards.
Monica feels lucky she was able to find an employer who was happy to assist her with her residency application, writing a supporting letter and confirming her job offer. This support gained her a further two-year work visa and paved the way for gaining residence.
After three and a half years she went back to university to get her post graduate qualification in public health, “because I wanted to work with people before they became sick”.
Her advice to anyone seeking residency after following the study-work pathway is simply to read the immigration policy carefully, study the forms and make sure you have all the information that’s needed
Monica found the process of applying for and gaining New Zealand residency straightforward. There were no obstacles or hidden costs, and once she had presented all the required documents it was just a matter of time, she says. Her advice to anyone seeking residency after following the study-work pathway is simply to read the immigration policy carefully, study the forms and make sure you have all the information that’s needed.
Monica now works for Auckland Council as a community development facilitator, managing programmes and projects for community groups. She also fits sport – especially tennis and badminton – and volunteer work into a busy lifestyle.
She was the MC at both the Auckland Lantern Festival and Chinese New Year Market Day and is Auckland secretary of the New Zealand Chinese Association, which represents the interests of both long-established and new Chinese migrant groups.
Monica’s role with the association includes helping to run events and leadership programmes for young Chinese. A Chinese young professionals' network, The Future Dragonz, grew out of this, offering social networking and learning opportunities for local and overseas-born Chinese.
Monica was also the organiser of the dragon dance for the opening ceremony of the Taniwha Dragon Festival early this year. The festival celebrates and encourages cultural and business relationships between the Maori and Chinese communities.
In 2013, Monica gained residency for her parents who have now moved to New Zealand. She is enjoying the challenge of helping them settle. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy because they don’t speak much English and have their own set ways of living.” She started by showing them around Auckland and “trying to expose them to as much Kiwi culture as possible”