This Friday, I gave a speech at Wenzhou-Kean University. It turned out to be a very rewarding experience.
It is an American style university, a satellite campus of Kean in Wenzhou City. Located in the outskirt of the town, the campus is very pleasant with modern new buildings, large lawns and surrounded by mountains. It got a fresh and spirited feel of a new establishment, ready for an adventure. (WKU came in full operation in 2014)
I am frankly rather amazed by the very existence of such international universities – there are about half a dozen of them in China – because they have the control of the campus, deciding their own curriculum and hiring their own teaching staff. And English is the working language. I couldn’t help but wondering what’s the impact on the Chinese students attending to such universities.
I talked about my experience at the rocket factory; how I taught myself English; how I pursued my passion in writing and how I used in – in both journalism and literature – to explore some serious social issues in China.
Dr. Holger Henke, the Vice President for Academic Affairs who invited me, was pleased to see that the students reacted positively to my talk. They asked a lot of questions: why did I choose to write in English? How do I explain things to readers from another culture? How did I research on a sensitive topic? What advice I can give to them?
I was particularly struck by one question filed by one female student who speaks very fluent English. She made the point that my desire to change my desperate situation gave me the drive to work towards a goal. But for young people like her who were born in more affluent time, they are too comfortable to try too hard and often feel confused by what they want from life.
Well, it seems that the question of how to live a meaningful life is the big question imposed on anyone, no matter which era we are born.
Nevertheless, I look at the smart young people attending to my talk at the Global Theatre with envy. Learning English changed my life. I am sure that receiving an American style education in English in the comfort of own territory will make an enormous and positive impact in their life, no matter what they decide to do with their lives.
See below a message from a professor of English who attended to the talk.
Hi Ms. Zhang,
Thanks again for your discussion at WKU today. Your presence was especially meaningful to me as an English professor because you provided an new model of success for our students; many of them express an interest in the humanities, but believe that success is limited to those in the businesses and sciences. You provided an alternative.
I enjoyed your talk and look forward to reading more of your work.
Kean University — Wenzhou