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Goodbye ‘Zai jian’ and Hello ‘Ni hao’ to Chinese Language Instructors

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JANUARY 19, 2013 – Every semester about 40 students at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College attend Chinese language classes taught by teachers from Henan Normal University in the city of Xinxiang, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China. 

Incoming Chinese professor Zhang Shu-jing
Incoming Chinese professor Zhang Shu-jing

In late December, the outgoing Chinese professor, Hu Hai-zhu, passed the baton to the incoming instructor, Zhang Shu-jing, a friend and colleague from HNU. 

As much as Hu was eager to return to her husband and three-year-old daughter, she said her experience in Brownsville was very worthwhile. Among her many “firsts” was celebrating Thanksgiving dinner, enjoying turkey and all the standard dishes, with friends at Brownsville’s Episcopal Church of the Advent. 

She traveled with Dr. William Adams, UTB and TSC Professor of History, and his wife, Roselyn, to spend Christmas with their family in Oklahoma. San Antonio was another treat, where she enjoyed the Riverwalk and Sea World. 

“This was a good experience; the people here are friendly, and Brownsville is very quiet compared to Xinxiang, a big and noisy city,” Hu said. “I liked my students here very much. Most of them have a lot of enthusiasm. They see a lot of news about China from mass media, and they are curious about China, and they want to learn Chinese. Also, I think some of them think Chinese is going to be useful in the future. Some have told me they will go to China someday.” 

One of the students planning to visit China, Samantha Jo Alaniz from Brownsville, just completed her first semester of Chinese with Hu and will be attending second semester Chinese with Zhang. A 2010 graduate of South Texas High School for Medical Professions, Mercedes’ “Med High,” Alaniz is taking Chinese because she plans to specialize in Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture after obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

“I do plan on going to China,” Alaniz said. “In fact, one of my last years in Chinese herbal medicine will possibly be spent in China. I wanted to know the language of what I plan to specialize in and prepare for, if I am able to go to China to study.” 

Zhang will be the 12th HNU professor to journey to Brownville, relocating for a year to take advantage of living in the United States and interacting with English speakers on a daily basis.  

“My time here in Brownsville will help me understand the language and culture better,” Zhang said. “Television and movies are often hard to understand. I watched Friends on TV in China, and I know when they say something funny, because the audience is laughing, but it is difficult for me to comprehend a lot of the jokes.” 

Outgoing Chinese professor Hu Hai-zhu and music major Ivan Hernandez.
Outgoing Chinese professor Hu Hai-zhu and music major Ivan Hernandez.

Zhang has settled into her apartment and is eager to get the spring semester started. Hu briefed her on the students, giving high marks for most and expressing appreciation for their enthusiasm. 

“Hai-zhu told me many of the students have jobs, that they must work, and this can add to the challenge of their academics,” Zhang said. “This is different than in China, where students are able to devote all their time to their studies.” 

Leaving Xinxiang, where the average low temperature this time of year is below freezing, Zhang was expecting warm, balmy days and sunny skies upon arriving in Brownsville. However, she has been assured the chilly weather will not last much longer. 

“It is very cold at home right now, with fog and snow,” she said. 

Xinxiang is a little over 6oo kilometers, or 375 miles, south, southwest of Beijing. The fast train makes the trip in about 2 hours. 

In addition to teaching Chinese at UTB and TSC, Zhang will be a teaching assistant in Adams’ Asian history class. The university’s relationship with HNU began in 1999 when Adams spent the academic year at HNU as a visiting professor. 

For more information, contact Dr. William Adams at 956-882-8989 or
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