Bridging the gap: 1L student Anna Wang aims to support immigrant families navigating legal challenges

October 24, 2023

Anna Wang and her son

“The story is not always black and white,” says 1L student Anna Wang reflecting on lessons learned during her Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Literature at Minzu University of China.

While a lot has changed for Wang in the five years since earning her BA, her desire to investigate grey areas, uncover hidden meanings, and simplify complex issues has been a consistent theme on her educational and career journey.

This drive, and a desire to help others learn and grow, led her to pursue a Master of Arts in Curriculum Studies at Western University. Wang’s personal experience navigating the transition to Canada as a Chinese international student would become the topic of her thesis “From Expectation To Experience: My Changing Identity As A Chinese International Student”.  

In the second year of her master’s program, Wang decided to start a family and gave birth to her son soon after graduation. With a young son to care for, she changed course and completed her Parent Coach Certification. Working as a parent coach, Wang often supported fellow first-generation immigrants and empathized with the challenges they faced adapting to life in Canada.

“I understand what they're going through is definitely not easy. I understand the challenge that they’re facing isn’t as simple as a parenting issue…they’re under financial burdens, they don't know how to reach out for the right support,” explained Wang.

“At that point, I was thinking, how can I help these people in a greater way…law school was my first choice. After I finish law school, I can see what I really want to do and help those families in different ways.”

Coming ‘home’ to a new chapter

For Wang, choosing to return to Western felt like a homecoming. Understanding the importance of community support for her success, she was drawn to the welcoming environment and approachable faculty, staff and students at Western Law. 

“I feel [Western Law] is a really supportive community. It’s easier for me to approach the different people here,” reflected Wang. “I know I needed this kind of support to help me to go through law school, and I wouldn't be able to reach my potential without this kind of comfortable environment.”

As she begins law school, Wang is looking forward to learning about different fields of law and building meaningful relationships with likeminded students. She’s already exploring her interest in family law through working as an associate caseworker at Western Law’s Community Legal Services.

What excited me is the opportunity to help vulnerable people like children or low-income families, because I have lots of friends [in] that community and I know they need the help,” said Wang. “Sometimes they don't even know there's help available, and it really hurts me to see other people taking advantage of them because they know more.”

Learning from the path of life

As a mature student, Wang appreciates all she has learned from the trial and error of life thus far. She believes that her educational background and experience navigating a separation will enable her to help clients focus on childrens’ wellbeing in family law matters. She also recognizes her experience as a parent coach as a strong asset to her career.

The biggest skill I’ve learned [from coaching] is active listening. As a parent coach, I listen to your story and understand the two sides of the story as much as I can,” said Wang. “It will help as a lawyer so I can understand the whole story [beyond] what the client presented. There [is usually] a much deeper thing in there.”

Wang is grateful for the clarity she now has on her goals and the deepened ambition she has gained with the benefit of life experience. She encourages other mature students who may be hesitant to pursue law school to “just go for it” and to acknowledge the unique lens they’ll bring to their class. She also offers helpful advice for parents or caregivers who are considering law school.

“Instead of seeing [the additional responsibilities of school] as a burden, see it as motivating. Usually, we encourage our children to do more to reach out to their dreams, but I think it's really important for us to set an example for them,” said Wang. “It helps to relieve the burden of it. You’re doing this to show your son. Yeah, you can work hard to achieve your dream no matter how hard it is.”

She adds that establishing a support system is also critical and is fortunate to have the help of her mother to contribute to her son’s care.

Regardless of where her legal career may lead, her path thus far has made her purpose clear.

“I think it's about meaning of life. At this point in my life, what I really want to do in this life is to make other people's lives better,” said Wang. “I want to do this through [a career in law] because I see it as a powerful way to be able to help other people.”

Learn more about applying to Western Law school as a mature student.