July 10, 2018
Lana Zhang is a second year masters’ student in American Studies at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China. She recently spoke with USCET about her experiences in the American Studies program and about what she hopes to use her degree to accomplish in the future.
Zhang became interested in American Studies as an undergraduate student at ECNU, during which time she was studying English Language and Literature. Zhang described that she was initially drawn to American literature because she found it “fascinating.” Then, after meeting Professor Jin Hengshan, her current supervisor in American Studies, she knew that she wanted to take more classes in the department.
Zhang explained that Professor Hengshan, who received his PhD. from Peking University, “is the master in this research field.” “I got to know him well,” she continued.
In her final year of undergraduate study, Zhang successfully obtained a postgraduate recommendation from ECNU to go directly into its American Studies Master’s program.
Zhang’s program is both intense and comprehensive. In addition to reading American poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, students take classes in American history and society. Her professors emphasize that understanding American literature’s historical and social context is critical to effectively analyzing it. The program also offers highly specialized classes: “Literature & Film Studies,” “Literature & Drama,” and “Feminist Literature,” for example.
Moreover, students in the ECNU American Studies program are required to learn a second foreign language. Zhang chose Japanese. “It helped me to some degree to understand Japanese-American literature,” she said.
Zhang has also had the opportunity to study abroad twice, once in the United Kingdom and once in the United States. When she was in America, she was based at different universities but often visited historical sites, including the White House and the United States’ Congress. “[Seeing everything] was just like in the movies,” Fang exclaimed.
During her interview, Fang’s interest in American Studies was clear. When asked about her favorite book, for example, she laughed and replied that she “[couldn’t] decide.” “There are too many good ones,” she said. Right now, Fang is reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. She also shares that she is particularly interested in “cross-cultural studies,” “travel writings written by American authors during their stays in China,” and “Chinese-American” literature.
Zhang has just submitted her research proposal for her Master’s Thesis. She has chosen to write on the evolution of American literature during the 1950’s, with a focus on Richard Yates’ novel The Revolutionary Road. In the future, Zhang is considering pursuing a PhD in American Studies because, in her words, she is “dedicated to continuing with this degree.” After her schooling, she hopes to become a professor or academic.
American Studies lies at the core of USCET’s organizational mission. This profile is part of a series to highlight various students across China who are majoring in American Studies and who plan to use it in their careers.