Dream to Teach

Sheng ZhangSheng1

Guizhou Province, China

J-1 Research Scholar

Chinese instructor

Confucius Institute

Sometimes finding your dream job can be difficult. For Sheng, he discovered his dream job through just that, a dream. “It starts with a voice in my heart when I was a little kid. When we are little kids we have a dream and when I was little I had this inner voice that told me that I’m going to be a teacher in the future”, Sheng says.

Can you tell us a bit about your unique perspective and background, and how it has helped you to become a teacher?

It starts from a voice in my heart when I was a little kid. When we are little kids we have a dream and when I was little I had this inner voice that told me that I’m going to be a teacher in the future. As I grew older, I told myself, I should be a teacher. In high school, we have a lot of homework and I studied arts. In China, high school is divided into different sections (arts and science) so we have to make a choice. I studied arts which means that we have to study history, politics, and geography. We also had math, English, Chinese. These are the three principal subjects we have to study no matter if you studied science or arts.  These type of art subjects led to a lot of memorization.

When I was in high school students around me were so quiet when they memorize something and they do not read out loud. When I memorize, it’s different. After school, everyone is out of the classroom only several students (stay afterward). I would pretend the classroom has a stage and pretend I’m a teacher to paraphrase what I learned that day. I use it as a way to memorize the knowledge and key points and it feels like I’m teaching something. Classmates of mine said I should be a teacher in the future. After high school, I went to a teachers college and studied English education and after graduation, I became an English teacher. I have this feeling if you know that you’re going to do something this voice is always in your heart and this thing may not be realized so soon, but someday—one day it will come true.


What is your field of specialization?

I work as a Chinese instructor in Confucius Institute. It’s a program sponsored by the Chinese government. I will stay here for 2 years. This is my first time to go abroad. Before I was accepted by this program I dreamed of going abroad, but I might think it’s unrealistic. I thought going abroad is something only wealthy families can do and I’m not from a family that has a lot of money. I don’t dare have that dream about that.

Fortunately, I tried this program[Confucius Institute] and I am accepted. I majored in English when I was in college. I learned this western culture and this language from a textbook. Sometimes it’s out of date. I wanted to confirm if everything I learned in the textbook was true. This is the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.

What is your favorite cultural activity to do in East  Lansing/Michigan/U.S.A.?

Chinese cultural activities because in China we celebrate a lot of Western holidays: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas Day, and Halloween. In China, we just celebrate these Western holidays so much that we forget about our tradition.

There was a time when China lost their confidence and thought foreigners were better. We [Chinese people] just thought that our culture and tradition prevented us from being a great country. For a long time, we thought western things are better than us. With the economic development of China, now we have this confidence back.We (now) want to spread our culture so for me it [teaching] is a great opportunity to teach Chinese here and spread our culture.


What have you learned during your time here as a J-1 scholar?

I feel like a door opened for me. When I was in China, I didn’t have this feeling that I can learn so much. Coming here at this university, I noticed a lot of opportunities to further my study and improve myself. I received my bachelor’s degree in China. I was thinking about maybe applying for Master’s degree in the U.S.A.  I love the education system here. [It’s] so free and the resources are open to everyone. I graduated from a common university, not a top, famous university just a general university so sometimes I doubted myself and I thought my life in the future wouldn’t go so far. I [thought] I might not achieve so much because I did not go to a good university.

When I was here, I just feel that the world opens another door for me. I think I can change my life in the future. Education in the U.S.A. is open to everyone it does not matter who you are or where you’re from. It just depends on your effort. I just think that I may need to try harder. Try my best to improve myself and successfully apply for Masters program here and finish my dream here.

What does cultural exchange mean to you?

It means an enriching life. This cultural experience means that I can improve my English skills. It gives me another chance to view people in a different country and let me know how they live and think. When I’m in China, I sometimes complain about our government. Maybe we should change.  We can become better or try democracy or something else.

When I came to America, ( I realized) our government has achieved so much and this achievement is maybe even better than some countries. Being abroad gives me this chance to love my country. I loved my country before, but I love it even more than before. It [living abroad] lets me cherish my culture and my roots.


Sheng5Sheng was interviewed by Shytance Wren, a graduate student in the Student Affairs Administration (SAA) Masters program at Michigan State University who serves as the OISS J-1 Scholar Program intern. Inside and outside of her research in the SAA program, Shytance is committed to international education and to providing quality support and services for international students. Implementing the J-1 scholar blog is a part of this commitment. She has studied abroad in Central Asia and Central America and hopes to relocate to the Middle East to work as an education officer in Jordan. When she’s all extraverted out from meeting new people, Shy indulges in the art of poetry.