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New Chinese Teacher Shares Language and Traditions of her Homeland                               

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JANUARY 27, 2014Chen Chen, the new Chinese teacher at The University of Texas at Brownsville, arrived in Brownsville in time to ring in 2014 at her new home. Chen will celebrate another new year – Chinese New Year – on Friday, Jan. 31.

“I will tell my students about this important holiday in China, about its significance and our traditions, such as returning to one’s home for a reunion of relatives and sharing a feast of favorite foods,” Chen said.

From Henan Normal University in Xinxiang, Henan Province, China, Chen is the 13th Chinese visiting instructor to spend a year teaching Chinese I and II at UTB. Dr. William Adams, Professor in the Department of History, was instrumental in establishing the program after being a visiting professor at HNU in the late 1990s.

Chinese Instructor Chen Chen hands out index cards with her students' Chinese names on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. Paul Chouy / UT Brownsville

“Dr. Adams and his wife, Roselyn, met me at the airport and took me into their home for my first few days in Brownsville, and they took good care of me,” Chen said. “I was deeply moved to celebrate the New Year with their family. He and Roselyn are just like a kind father and mother.”

Concluding her second week of teaching at UTB, Chen said she is impressed with her students. She finds the beginners to be enthusiastic, and she said those in Chinese II, who studied with her predecessor and colleague from HNU, Zhang Shu-jing, appear to have a good grasp of the basics and are doing well in reading Chinese characters.

“My students are warmhearted, and they have welcomed me to Brownsville,” Chen said. “They have printed out the bus schedule for me; they have offered to take me places; in fact, one student already took me to an Oriental market and to Wal-Mart.”

Chen’s students expressed a wide variety of reasons for taking the classes.

Jose Vergara said he has a fascination with China. He grew up in Spain, came to Brownsville because of a family connection and graduated from Premier High School in 2013.

“My mom took me with her on a business trip to China when I was 12 or so, and ever since then, I’ve been in love with China, so I want to take advantage of these classes to get started on the language,” said Vergara, a freshman art major who is in Chinese I.

Freshman Carlos Camacho, a 2013 Porter High School graduate, commented on the realistic value of learning Chinese.

“It goes well with my major, international business; I think knowing Chinese will be helpful – after all, China is the leading economy of the world now,” said Camacho, a Chinese II student.  

Sophomore Ann Jacobo, a 2012 Pace High School graduate, is looking at career possibilities that will require linguistic abilities to complement her government/communications major.

“Chinese caught my attention when I was a kid,” said Jacobo, a Chinese I student. “I want to work for the United Nations, perhaps in foreign policy or translation.”

Freshman psychology major Sergio Gonzalez, a 2012 Hanna High School graduate, expressed a fascination with China and the Chinese language, like many of his classmates. Gonzalez said he thinks there may be opportunities to combine his future expertise in child psychology research with travel to China.

Jeffery Hung grew up in a home where Chinese was spoken. He was four years old when he and his parents emigrated from Taiwan to Canada and then the United States.

“I’m taking these classes to reinforce what I already know; I would say my Chinese is ‘decent,’” said Hung, a senior at the Math and Science Academy.    

Three Brownsville Early College High School students are in the Chinese II class.

Erick Hernandez, a BECHS senior, said he feels the Chinese language study will help him be more competitive in corporate America. Stephanie Garza, another BECHS senior, said she wants to travel to China, and she loves history and is looking forward to taking Dr. Adams’ Asian History class.

As part of her responsibilities at UTB, Chen will co-teach portions of that class with Adams as well as The First Globalization: World History 1450-1750.

Chen, who teaches English to non-English majors at HNU, is an adventurer; she has visited about three-quarters of the Chinese provinces. While in the United States, she hopes to do some serious traveling over the summer break, with Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. high on her list.

“If I have the time and the money, I would also like to go to the west coast,” Chen said. “I hear San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are beautiful, and a friend told me I must go to Las Vegas.”

Thus far in her short time in Brownsville, she has explored the downtown area, map in hand, seeking out the historical sites, including Sacred Heart Church, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the Stillman Heritage Complex and several of Brownsville’s beautiful old residences. Chen said she found it a bit humorous to see all the dollar stores on Elizabeth Street filled with Chinese merchandise.

“My first few days here, it was raining and gray and cold, but on Jan. 2, the day Dr. and Mrs. Adams helped me move into my apartment, the sun came out, and I was able to really see my new home for the first time,” Chen said. “I walked around the campus – it is so clean, blue skies and green grass, so beautiful and quiet. I know this will be a good year.”​​​​​​​

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