Zhang braves America: Embracing a new culture

“I love the freedom,” said sophomore Kaiyu Zhang about living in the United States. “And I really love the people here. I feel like some of them really care about me.”

Kaiyu 'Ann' Zhang, 14 years old, in China.

Known as “Ann” to most people on campus, Zhang is a native of China and has “always dreamed of experiencing western cultures.” Through an exchange program in high school, she spent a year in Texas, which fostered in her an increasing interest in education in the United States.

Transylvania University grabbed her attention on the Internet and, a few months later, she found herself living in Lexington on its historic campus studying business administration and education.

Though her given name is Kaiyu, upon arriving she chose Ann as her “American” name, which means peace in Chinese.

“I wanted to have a name beginning with the letter ‘A’ because it’s in the beginning of the alphabet since I’m always last with the ‘Z’ in Zhang,” she said.

In high school Zhang excelled in English. Many have commented on how well she has adapted to the American culture.

“Everything is just so different,” Zhang said.

As a freshman in her Chinese high school, Zhang attended class six days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Each morning she

Zhang's high school, Dongying No. 1 High School. Each morning before beginning classes, she and fellow classmates had to run laps around the grounds as a part of a mandatory exercise routine.

woke up around 5:30 and rode her bicycle 15 minutes to campus. She would arrive in time for the mandatory morning exercises, which consisted of running several laps around the school’s grounds, no talking permitted.

Following the exercises, students were required to study in the classroom before the 30-minute breakfast period. After eating, Zhang would attend four one-hour classes with a five-minute break between each.

“We were not allowed to interrupt the teacher during class to go to the bathroom,” said Zhang.

When the morning classes were over, she would ride her bike home to eat lunch, take a mandatory nap and return to school at 2 p.m.

“Students who lived on campus would eat in the dining hall while remaining silent and standing up because there were no chairs,” Zhang said.

Upon returning to school in the afternoon, the students attended more lessons. In the evening Zhang sometimes had night classes and other times she had time to prepare for the next day by studying on her own. Regardless, students were not allowed to leave campus for home until around 10.

The students received two days off every month.

“I would be so tired riding my bike to school in the morning I could have fallen asleep. I never fell asleep, but one time I closed my eyes,” said Zhang. “My second semester got better because I got two days off every two weeks.”

To relax in China, Zhang played an instrument called the guzheng, which she described as a unique part of ancient Chinese culture.

“I really enjoy the feeling I get when I play it,” Zhang said. “It’s very soothing and you just calm down. I feel like I am immersed in the music, almost like I am meditating. It’s very peaceful.”

For fun in China she enjoyed shopping and seeing movies with her parents, and sometimes her friends.

Here, Zhang is known for her disciplined academic life.

“Some people say I study a lot, but that’s just the way I was taught,” Zhang said. “Something I love about Transy is that the professors and staff are so willing to help me in my studies.”

Zhang is frequently found in academically encouraging settings, such as the Writing Center.

“All of her sessions are really high-energy,” said Becky Mills, office manager of the Writing Center. “She is very dedicated and driven, and she really seems to enjoy school.”

Since being a Transy student, Zhang has volunteered in the admissions office with a goal of helping to diversify Transy.

“I want more Chinese students to come here so that they can contribute their unique culture to this campus,” said Zhang.

Zhang has also volunteered at a local elementary school where she tutored students in math.

Though she has immersed herself in her studies, she has found some time to experience American culture.

“I tried Qdoba last week,” Zhang said. “And I actually saw a pig when I was in Texas! It’s also amazing to see deer crossing the road.”

This summer, Zhang hopes to study abroad in Europe.

She wants to experience more of America, especially Kentucky culture, such as a visit to Keeneland.

“But not until after I finish my homework,” said Zhang.

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One Response to Zhang braves America: Embracing a new culture

  1. Pingback: Zhang braves America: Embracing a new culture « The Rambler | study highschool abroad

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