Photo above: Aaron Brimacombe, second from the left, along with fellow Chinese Studies students, celebrated the 2020 Chinese New Year by making dumplings.

By Alison DeLory

Dalhousie’s Chinese Studies program has a new $1,000 scholarship prize — the fifth Dal scholarship supported by Eric Yeung and the Chinese Education Promotion Association of Nova Scotia.

Aaron Brimacombe, who is double majoring in French and Spanish with a minor in Chinese Studies, is the recipient. He reduced his course load this year because of COVID-19, but says, “The [scholarship] money makes everything more certain. Tuition and rent will be covered; it can assist me in doing full-time schooling next year.”

Brimacombe is from Victoria, B.C. and wants to become a translator. He’s fluent in French and can ‘get by’ in Spanish. But branching out to learn Chinese (Mandarin), a non-Romance language, was difficult. “Once I learned around 50 radicals [a graphical component of a Chinese character that can hold information about its meaning and/or sound], it started to get easier.” He says he’s particularly fascinated by how the structure of the character systems lends itself to Chinese poetry, while the language’s tonality allows for the creation of beautiful, lyrical music.

Last year, Brimacombe won a $500 scholarship in the Chinese Studies department. He was also part of the conversation club.

Dr. Shao-Pin Luo, coordinator of the Chinese Studies Program, noticed his aptitude. It was she who emailed Brimacombe to tell him he’d won the inaugural $1,000 prize.

Business owner motivated to support students and grow N.S.’s population

Halifax business leader Eric Yeung, who owns May Garden restaurants in the Halifax Regional Municipality, offered the department’s first $500 scholarship in 2016 and was delighted to learn how happy it made the recipient. When he also saw how it motivated more students to want to learn Chinese, he grew the education fund to $2,000/year with the help of business associates.

“These are people with good hearts who want to help students and the province,” Yeung says of his associates who’ve contributed to the fund.

This year, Yeung offered the new $1,000 scholarship prize in addition to the four existing $500 scholarships.

“Mr. Eric Yeung . . . has been extremely generous and gracious in providing the scholarships and meeting with students,” says Dr. Luo. “The scholarships grew from one to the current five, all due to the incredible generosity of Eric Yeung and his Association. They are a wonderful encouragement to our students and we are very grateful.”

Part of Yeung’s motivation is his love for Halifax, a city he adopted after moving here from Hong Kong in 1991, and the possibility the students his education fund supports may stay in Halifax after they graduate. “We need smart people to stay here,” he says. “I always ask them if after they graduate they will stay and make the city grow. Maybe they want to start a business.”

Yeung says when he’s had the opportunity to meet the scholarship recipients in person in non-COVID-19 years, they talk to him in his native language. “I like that,” he says. “They’re all interested in China; the country is still a mystery to them.”

2021 Chinese Studies scholarship prize winners

Top prize ($1,000):

  • Aaron Brimacombe, major in Spanish and French with a minor in Chinese

Four $500 prizes:

  • Megan Deering, major in Computer Science with a minor in Chinese
  • Ella Kim, major in International Development Studies with a minor in Chinese
  • Olivia Kirkegaard, major in Microbiology and Immunology with a minor in Chinese
  • Nada Thummapimuk, major in Psychology with a minor in Chinese