Breaking down cultural barriers with a Tri-C education
December 12, 2016
Yajing Zhang came to the United States four years ago from Shanghai, China. When she arrived in the U.S., she wanted to learn the culture, but to do that, she knew she needed to conquer the language.
Zhang chose to begin her American education at Cuyahoga Community College. She was familiar with Tri-C after watching her husband and sister-in-law attend, and quickly discovered the College was a fit for her as well.
Ever the planner, Zhang was looking at the long-term. She was interested in not only learning the language, but also in a degree that would allow her to have a productive career. She soon found what she was looking for in the Tri-C Hospitality Management program.
Zhang spoke very little English before she came to the United States. Janis Scalone, professor in the English as a Second Language program at the Eastern Campus, was her first professional grammar teacher.
"I learned a lot from (Scalone’s) classes,” Zhang said. “When I first came here it was so scary because it was so new. Sometimes I’d have a question and didn’t know how to ask it. I didn’t know how to make a complete sentence.”
Zhang has spent a lot of time studying, and her command of the English language shows it. She spends almost 10 hours every day memorizing vocabulary and to practice speaking English.
She’s proud of what she has accomplished in such a short time. Four short years ago, she couldn’t understand enough English to answer basic questions. She was nervous because she couldn’t communicate with anyone. Today, when she sees someone, she can make eye contact and chat. She’s now confident enough to go to a job fair and communicate her abilities.
“I have a credit card, GPS -- I can travel the whole U.S.” she said. “That is a big, big change. I’m not scared anymore.”
Zhang will be graduating this month with a major in hospitality management, with a focus on tourism and lodging. She is concurrently pursuing an event planning certificate.
Zhang is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, volunteers within her community and at Hospitality Management Center events. She helped plan one of her professors’ weddings along with four of her fellow students, held at the HMC. Following her graduation this month, she is planning to transfer to Hiram College, while continuing to take classes at the Tri-C Eastern Campus.
“The harder you work, the luckier you will be,” Zhang tells other students. “Your goals should be set with high standards, and follow your goals to reach your destination. Never give up no matter how hard. Follow your heart and dreams.”