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

September 17, 2018


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. 




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。


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。