Meet Our Fellow Alumni – Huiling

7/09/2021

Huiling Cai – 2017 Fellow

Huiling Image

Huiling is a Fellow alumna 

of our 2017 cohort. She transferred from LaGuardia Community College to Fordham University and graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Public Accounting in Fall 2020. She has accepted a full time offer with EY and is passionate about using her experience, and her degree, to give back.

Reflecting on her time at ANY, Huiling recalls how far she’s come.

“At the beginning, I was so unsecure because I’m an immigrant, because I am not a traditional student. Most importantly, I’m a first-generation college student, neither of my parents went to college, so I didn’t know what to do or how to approach my goals.

During the [ANY] interview, they told me that I [would become] more professional, I would be given guidance, and, most importantly, someone would mentor me. That is what attracted me. This amazing program gave me opportunity, and it totally changed my life. I think that’s the case for so many people.

I had my first public speaking [experience] at an America Needs You workshop. I still have that image in my mind. At the end of the workshop, they asked for Fellow volunteers to try public speaking. My English wasn’t good at all, but I was encouraged by my Mentor Coach, Jen. She gave me the look, and I was like, ‘Can I try?’ In that moment, I felt I could do it. And that moment gave me a lot of self-confidence. I can do it.

As a community college student, the transfer process was intimidating, but ANY was with her every step of the way.

“The transfer process is almost like starting over again: right when you get used to one college experience, you then go on to another one. It was challenging, but I always had Jen. She helped me from the very beginning with the personal statement, and when I got the full scholarship to transfer to Fordham University, she was with me. She was so happy for me, I now feel she’s not only a mentor and a friend, she’s like a family member.” Always looking to pay it forward, Huiling shares her advice for current and future Fellows.

“When I transferred to Fordham, I was so caught up in my GPA. During the second semester, I got one minus from conversation to English writing. I was so mad at myself! But now when I look back, I learned so much from that [experience], I wouldn’t say it’s a failure. I want our students to know that. Yes, 4.0 is great, but there’s no need to obsess about it. It’s okay if you get an A minus or a B plus, as long as you are learning. If you’re perfect all the time, then you don’t really go anywhere. You just stay perfect.

After interning with EY, Huiling received a full-time offer and will join the Assurance staff in September.

“America Needs You prepared me a lot for the professional setting – how to shake hands and how to approach and talk to [a potential business connection]. I still have the booklet from every time I attended a workshop. I still look at it, how to revise my resume or how to polish my cover letter. I think that is essential for first-generation college students. And it’s prepared me for my internships. I just feel without America Needs You, I couldn’t be who I am today. I have to say, 90% of the lines on my resume are related to America Needs You.

She recently passed her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and is currently an EY Campus Ambassador mentor, paying it forward by sharing her knowledge and experience with potential interns.

“My motivation to become a CPA is to help others. I remember, I saw some CPAs taking advantage of new immigrants when they prepared their IRS tax returns because they don’t speak English, and I was so angry at this behavior, but I couldn’t do anything at the beginning because I didn’t know the tax [laws], and I didn’t know English at the time. I couldn’t help. I told myself, once I become a CPA and I have more power, I can do better, and I can give back and help new immigrants. As long as I can help one person and make positive change in the world, I’m totally satisfied.

I constantly get questions from others saying, ‘Why do you do this? Why do you like helping others?’  I feel I have the obligation, the duty to inspire or to help others. If I can inspire someone and tell them from my experience that if I can do it, [they] can too – I love that. That is the moment I feel my value.

We are so excited to see what Huiling does next and look forward to seeing her return as a Mentor Coach very soon!

Join us in supporting more first-generation college students like Huiling.

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