Zhang will travel to Taiwan to teach English thanks to the prestigious scholarship program
When Edwin Zhang arrived at the University of Maryland as a freshman in the fall of 2015, he knew that being a biological sciences major would offer him a world of academic possibilities. He knew about the potential research opportunities and chances to showcase his work. What he did not know is that he would fall in love with an entirely different part of the educational experience: teaching.
Now, as a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, Zhang will have the opportunity to take his love of teaching international as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan.
“I really, really enjoy teaching. It’s something I was doing three to four days out of the week, in addition to my studies,” said Zhang, who graduated in May 2020 with his bachelor’s degree. “When I learned about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program through the Honors College, I applied because it seemed like a great opportunity and lined up with what I enjoy doing.”
Zhang began teaching during his freshman year when he volunteered with the Maryland Family Literacy Program. He helped elementary-school students learn to read and also helped parents—often immigrants—learn how to better support their children’s literacy. Zhang’s parents are Chinese immigrants, so being able to support these families in this way was special to him.
“I enjoy working with kids,” Zhang said. “I enjoy passing on the knowledge I've gained going through our education system to people like myself, whose parents are immigrants and are figuring our educational system out. I like being a part of that because I've been through the system and I can relate to that.”
At the request of many parents, Zhang used his passion for teaching to create his own after-school learning program called the Young Scientists Initiative (YSI), which held its first workshops in fall 2019. Through YSI, Zhang and about half a dozen other UMD students conducted science experiments with Prince George’s County elementary-school students to get them interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). With this program they have been able to work with more than a hundred students in Title I elementary schools, and Zhang hopes the program continues to grow when he leaves the community.
“We introduce the students to STEM early and get them excited about it,” he explained. “We want to show students at a young age that science is something that's achievable, fun and a legitimate field to pursue.”
While Zhang is excited about teaching in Taiwan, he is also looking forward to immersing himself in the culture. His great-grandfather was an officer in the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party, and was forced to leave China and relocate to Taiwan as a result of the civil war between the Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China. Zhang has traveled to China multiple times to visit family members, but he has never had the opportunity to visit Taiwan and is looking forward to exploring that part of his heritage.
“I'm super excited to explore Taiwanese culture because I think it is a lot different from the mainland Chinese culture that runs in my family,” Zhang said. “The country’s speed and the different intonations in how they speak Mandarin is different from mainland China, and those little things will be really unique to be able to witness. And obviously the food.”
While he’s in Taiwan, Zhang also hopes to coach a youth baseball team; it’s a sport he enjoyed playing as a child.
“Baseball was always something that I really loved,” he said. “I'd like to not only get myself back into the game, but also do some outreach with the community. I think it'll be a really rewarding experience, not only for me, but also for the kids.”
Teaching gives Zhang the opportunity to help people and enrich their lives. While he is keeping his options open for his career once he returns to the states, he hopes to be able to enrich as many lives as possible during his Fulbright experience.
“I just want to be able to engage with the community in some way. I want to document the lives of the people in the community and see how it compares to growing up in the USA or mainland China,” he explained. “At the end of the day, I just want to be able to tell people’s stories.”
Media Relations Contact: Chelsea Torres, 301-405-5204, email@example.com
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The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $200 million.