MEI Schools > Testimonials > Charlie Zhao

Charlie Zhao


Assistant Coordinator
MEI International Department

“I know both the Chinese and Canadian school systems. Based on what I have seen at MEI, I will never send my kids back to China, they will attend the school which supported me and my family and which I work for and trust.”

It’s my privilege to tell my story. My story is how MEI has enabled me to survive and grow. Looking back at my journey, it really is a miracle.

I first came to Canada in February 2006 with a 12-students short term language program as a Chinese escort. At that time, I was the head English teacher in a Chinese school. This language group that came with me was the first group of Chinese students that had ever come to MEI. I experienced a lot of “first-time” things in MEI. Canada was the first country I have been to outside of China and still is the only one I have been. The first time I stayed in someone else’s house for that long of a time, three months. The first time I saw a dishwasher, oven, and that huge big cat in the house. The first time I tried snow skiing, water skiing, mountain biking, caterpillar water slide, wave pool, and staying overnight in a tent. Also, Northview Church was the first one I’ve ever attended. My host family, the Reimers, took me to church every Sunday. The gospel message impacted me, as it was the first time I had been exposed to it. I still remember the day I left MEI, I asked Ms. Smith to give me a second to say “Thank you” to all Middle School teachers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help crying for 5 minutes. It was embarrassing. I had a great time in Canada which caused me to pursue immigrating here with my host family’s help. It took me over a year to get my paperwork together. In June of 2007, I arrived back in Canada to begin a new life here.

From 2007 to 2010, I worked as a live-in care giver for three different families. Also, I worked for MEI International Department with the Chinese programs. I translated documents and kids applications, communicated with Chinese parents in evenings. I had coffee with MEI teachers, joined their life group, and came to watch MEI concerts, sports games, high school drama, and the marching band.

I have gotten a lot of encouragement and help from MEI staff and I think I couldn’t have survived without their support. Every time, I came into MEI, I felt like I was home

With the Chinese programs getting bigger and bigger, I started to work at MEI more. This summer, I started my full time job and in September 2011, I started to teach Chinese mandarin in both elementary and middle schools. I have a middle school luncheon club and Grade 3, 4, 5 after school clubs. In total, I have 80 kids studying Chinese Mandarin at MEI right now. They are eager to learn and not shamed or shy to open their mouths to speak Chinese in campus. Whenever I show up in elementary school, I hear “ni hao, ni hao, Mr. Zhao” everywhere. It’s still a mystery for me that how MEI students behave so good, as I never see MEI teachers discipline them with strong words or a loud voice. It’s impossible in Chinese schools, yelling at students with scary face to try to get their attention is very common. It’s amazing to see my mandarin classes sing Chinese songs together and introduce themselves in Chinese. I wish I could have them show you here. I’m very proud of them.

Our 4 month Chinese summer program with the affiliated elementary school of Beijing University and other 7 branch schools in 7 different Chinese cities have been more and more successful during these 5 years. We have hosted more than 300 Chinese students. We are always amazed by how much the kids improve during our 4 month program. At the beginning, they can’t even open their mouths to speak or understand anything, by the end; they speak fluent English and miss their host families a lot. Some of them have already come back to MEI being long term students. In Beijing, we have built a very good reputation for our programs. We never do advertising to sell MEI; parents always come to us for a good abroad education.