New RRFDC intern impressed by district

There is a new face at the Rainy River Future Development Corp.
Jessie Zhang, 24, arrived in Fort Frances about three weeks ago to begin her position as economic development intern at the RRFDC.
“It’s different but I quite like it here,” she said over tea at Robin’s Donuts on Friday.
Different, because Zhang just spent the last two years working on her Master of Science in Planning degree at the University of Toronto.
“To go from such a busy city to a small town, it’s a slower pace, and it’s good. I can concentrate on my work,” she noted.
One of Zhang’s first experiences in Northwestern Ontario was attending the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society’s annual fall fair in Emo last month.
She and two friends who were helping her move had driven all the way here from Toronto only a few days earlier and decided to check it out.
Zhang said they were watching a cattle show without understanding what was going on until it was explained to them by Pat and Kim Cornell of Cornell Farms in La Vallee.
Later, the couple invited the new intern to their home for dinner.
“That would never happen in Toronto,” Zhang said. “People are very nice here. I do feel welcome.”
Though even Toronto is only a second home to her.
Zhang originally is from southern China, near the metropolis of Guangzhou, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Environment Economics and Management at Renmin University of China in Beijing.
She moved to Canada two years ago, with no family to support her, to earn her Master’s degree. While she has not had a chance to go back and see her family since then, she has been lucky enough to find friends in her new home.
“Canada is a very friendly country,” she remarked.
Her job at the RRFDC will keep her busy. Zhang already has begun working on three projects, though much of it is research at this stage.
“Reading is my main job now because it’s so new to me,” she said.
Zhang noted there’s a saying in China that says the rural areas of any country tell a great deal about that country’s standard of living. In the West, for instance, they illustrate the high quality of life while in China, the rural areas often are the poorest.
Fort Frances, she said, is no exception. “The living condition here is good.”
Zhang also marvelled at the natural beauty of the area, and people’s general lack of knowledge about this part of the country. “Even a lot of Canadians don’t know much about this area,” she noted.
During her one-year contract, Zhang will contribute to the Community Improvement Plan for the district, work with the Downtown Revitalization Committee, and collect information on tourism marketing, among other things.
“I always want to build a better community—socially, economically, and environmentally,” she stressed.
When asked what Fort Frances could do to grow and prosper, Zhang said the question was an interesting one.
“Everyone seems to be struggling with how to make this town more vibrant or viable in the next 25 to 50 years,” she noted. “I still need some time to explore.”
Zhang said she enjoys Canada very much, and hopes to eventually visit other parts of the country and build some career experience. But her long-term goal is to return to China.
“One day I hope I’ll have the chance to contribute to my own country,” she said.
Zhang also said she hopes her parents will be able to come visit her before her year here is up, so she can show them the northern lights and take her dad fishing on Rainy Lake.
“That would be wonderful,” she enthused.