EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) — Xin Zhang’s dream to explore the world and learn about different cultures led her to become a Chinese language lecturer.
“I believe language is very helpful for humans to understand each other,” she said.
Zhang has taught in South Korea, Africa, and the United States, where she has spent the last eight years working at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“I already look at the Valley like my second hometown,” said Zhang. “I know where I can find good restaurants and I know how to communicate with local people. I have a feeling of love in this place.”
Her position is on a one-year contract and on May 13, she got a call informing her that it has not been renewed for the 2021-2022 school year.
“I was shocked, and I felt very weak and I lost confidence in myself,” Zhang said.
KVEO reached out to UTRGV about the decision. They said it was due to insufficient enrollment, however, they have offered Zhang a part-time position teaching three courses.
Since her immigration visa requires fulltime employment, she cannot accept this position.
“I feel very sorry I didn’t say goodbye,” she said. “I cannot meet my students again in fall.”
UTRGV Cyber Security major Chris Cavasos has become nearly fluent in Chinese through Professor Zhang’s courses.
“I think speaking English, along with Spanish when it comes to being able to connect with Central and South America, as well as Chinese would have given me a good opportunity to work in a world that has become increasingly globalized,” Cavasos said.
He planned to take another course with Zhang in the fall, but now that is uncertain, as is the fate of the Chinese Language and Culture Association that without Zhang, loses its sponsor.
“Nothing is guaranteed so I would say it’s daunting,” he said. “If there were some kind of goal, I knew if I hit this goal, we keep the Chinese program. We’re really just shooting in the dark.”
While Zhang is hopeful enrollment increases enough to save her job, if it does not, she encourages students to not give up on learning the language.
“Your age is a very good age to learn the new things,” she said. “If after a couple of years, you need to support your family, you don’t have a chance to learn so you lost an opportunity. So, college is a good time to try new things to challenge yourself.”
To keep her visa, Zhang would need to find full-time employment by the end of July. She was planning on retiring and moving back to China in three years once the H1 visa expired.
Now, returning may be her only choice, which she says will be more difficult with COVID-19 remaining a threat.