ASN Profile: Tian Yi Zhang’s ECNU American Studies Experience

September 17, 2018

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Tian Yi Zhang is a graduating master’s student at East China Normal University (ECNU). She recently spoke with USCET about her interest in American studies and her experiences in the program.

As an undergraduate at Xi’an International Studies University, Zhang studied English Language and Literature. I “found that there was musicality in the [English] language,” she explained, “so I wanted to be an English major.” At the time, she admitted, she was not even aware that American studies existed. However, she became increasingly more exposed to classes focusing on American society, and in particular on American pop culture and media.

For Zhang, it was American pop culture icons like Bob Dylan that made her realize she wanted to pursue a degree in American studies. She is interested in his music because, to her, it is not only masterful but also offers “commentary on our daily life.” Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind is her favorite song.

Zhang’s current area of focus, however, is not music but rather American theatre and drama. In her master’s thesis, she compares Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman to August Wilson Wilson’s Fences. Part of the reason Zhang chose to study theatre and drama is because she finds it “near to life.” In other words, the stories actually come to life during performances. “Seeing the play performed helps me to [understand] it,” she said.

In Zhang’s American studies program, students take American culture and politics classes in addition to literature classes. These classes, she described, are “about the philosophical critical understandings of American culture and literature.” In addition, Zhang studied French to fulfill her program’s foreign language requirement. She believes that because “American culture is inseparable from European culture,” French has helped her to better understand American literature.

When asked about how fellow Chinese students react when she says she is an American studies major, she revealed that the program is still “relatively unknown.” Most of the program’s roughly 50 students were initially interested in English literature, like her, and then gradually chose to focus on American literature. Moreover, unlike China studies programs in the US, which attract many political science students, most of her classmates study literature.

When she was in the first year of her master’s program, Zhang had the opportunity to participate in USCET’s American Studies Network Conference. She found the conference useful, especially because she was “surrounded with people who have similar interests to her.”

She is also planning to participate in the upcoming ASN conference at ECNU. As she is still completing research on her master’s thesis, she hopes that the conference will inspire her to take her research in new directions. She also wants to ask for information on the Fulbright Program and other American-Chinese educational exchanges, which she would be interested in applying to in the future.

After Zhang obtains her master’s degree this August, she will begin teaching college English near her hometown in Henan province.

American Studies lies at the core of USCET’s organizational mission. This profile is part of a series to highlight various students across China who are majoring in American Studies and who plan to use it in their careers. 

 

 

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Tian Yi Zhang是华东师范大学硕士研究生。她最近在接受中美教育基金会采访时谈到了她对美国研究的兴趣以及她在这个项目中的经历。

在西安外国语大学读本科时,她学习的是英语语言和文学。我“发现[英语]有音乐性,”她解释说,“所以我想成为一名英语专业的学生。”她承认,当时她甚至没有意识到美国研究的存在。然而,之后她越来越多地接触到关注美国社会、尤其是美国流行文化和媒体的课程。

对Zhang来说,是鲍勃•迪伦等美国流行文化偶像让她意识到自己想要攻读美国研究学位。她对他的音乐很感兴趣,因为对她来说,他的音乐不仅精湛,而且能“评论我们的日常生活”。迪伦的《Blowing in the Wind 》是她最喜欢的歌曲。

然而,Zhang目前关注的领域不是音乐,而是美国戏剧和戏剧。在她的硕士论文中,她把阿瑟·米勒的《推销员之死》比作奥古斯特·威尔逊的《篱笆》。Zhang选择戏剧的部分原因是她发现戏剧“接近生活”。换句话说,这些故事实际上是在表演中出现的。她说:“看这部戏的表演有助于我理解它。”

在Zhang的美国学习计划中,学生们除了上文学课外,还上美国文化和政治课。她说,这些课程是“关于对美国文化和文学的哲学批判理解”。此外,为了满足她的外语要求,她还学习了法语。她认为,因为“美国文化与欧洲文化密不可分”,法语能够帮助她更好地理解美国文学。

当被问及当她说自己是美国研究专业的时候,中国同学的反应如何时,她透露这个项目“相对来说还不为人知”。该项目约50名学生中,大多数人最初和她一样对英国文学感兴趣,后来逐渐选择关注美国文学。此外,与吸引了许多政治学学生的美国中国研究项目不同,她的大多数同学学习文学。

在她攻读硕士学位的第一年,她有机会参加中美教育基金会的美国研究联络会会议。她觉得这次会议很有用,尤其是因为她“周围都是和她有相似兴趣的人”。

她还计划参加今年十一月即将在华东师范大学举行的美国研究联络会会议。由于她仍在完成硕士论文的研究,她希望这次会议能激励她将研究引向新的方向。她还想了解富布莱特项目和其他中美教育交流项目的信息,她将来或许会有兴趣申请这些项目。

今年8月获得硕士学位后,她将在家乡河南省开始教授大学英语。

 

美国研究是中美教育基金的核心使命之一。本篇特稿是USCET对主修美国研究并有意于之后在领域内发展的中国学生的系列采访之一