Yang Zhang

College of Business and Economics

As a teenager in China, Yang Zhang had no idea what career she wanted to pursue. A random choice led her to the accounting program at Beijing Information Science & Technology University. After earning her degree, she realized she didn’t want to pursue a career in accounting.

She wanted to leave Beijing, and that desire for change brought her to the United States and Cal State LA in 2014. She says her first experience in the classroom was completely different from her time as an undergraduate student.

“In China, professors do not give you a syllabus, and they all teach the same way,” says the 23-year-old Zhang. “Here, you can see the professors’ personalities and different teaching styles.”

She says she wants to become a professor and work in the United States because she wants to teach in her own unique way. She hopes to learn more about teaching at New York University, where she has been accepted to the Ph.D. program for leadership and organizational behavior.

She says Cal State LA provided her with the skills to pursue her goals and be successful in life. “The most important thing I’ve gained is confidence,” she says. “For my first conference presentation, I was so nervous. I prepared for three months. Eventually, that prep time became less and less as I gained the confidence.”

Zhang now exudes confidence, saying that she has no fear or doubt about the future. “I don’t have the time to doubt my goals. It’s a lot of hard work to pursue them, but I don’t think too much about the [distant] future. I just think about what I should do for tomorrow or the next step,” she says.

Zhang confesses that before she realized what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, she didn’t understand the concept of “dream” or “passion.” Now that the fire has been sparked, Zhang says, she occasionally goes without eating or sleeping in order to keep working, which is something she once could not imagine doing. She says it’s a “spirit power” that keeps her going on this journey.

Zhang says she has grown up a lot since moving to the United States. She realized that she can improve herself and grow as an individual. In China, she says, everyone is expected to follow the same pattern. Graduation, employment, marriage and parenthood should occur at specific ages. She says her parents would like her to follow that pattern, but adds that they respect her choices because they want her to do what makes her happy.

“Here, I can do whatever I want to do. I don’t need to follow the pattern,” Zhang says. “I don’t want to be exactly the same as somebody else.”