#INTOMUviews: Tony Zhang

“These things really melt my heart, and I think it’s warmer than any emotionless tall building, emotionless sunshine, and emotionless beach in the movies. I think that the real life here is better than what you watch in the movie.”


Jared Casto

Tony Zhang

Tony Zhang is a Chinese INTO Marshall University student who has been in America for a year. Zhang previously earned a Bachelors degree at Shenyang University in his home country studying piano and education. When he arrived in America, he was initially disappointed that Huntington was not more similar to the cityscapes and environment he had come to know America for in movies. However, after a while he began to appreciate Huntington for the kind and hospitable people. In his free time, Zhang is an avid piano player and is also involved in the Chinese Student Association. After completing the INTO MU program, Zhang would like to continue his studies at Marshall in Smith Music Hall.

Q: How do you think you have adapted to America and Marshall University?

A: Here’s my story. Before I came to America, my understanding of America was just from movies. In the movies you can see the tall buildings in New York City and the sunshine and beautiful beach in Miami or Los Angeles. (…) I wanted to come here to touch it, to smell it, to feel it (…) It’s like when you are watching “Iron Man,” you have that strong desire. You want to get that armor and fly in the sky. That’s my feeling when I watch American movies, so I came here. I still remember the first time I arrived at Huntington. It was January of last year and it was freezing winter. When I arrived here, I was asking myself ‘Where are the tall buildings?’ ‘Where’s the sunshine and beautiful beach?’ They were not here and I felt a little upset. When I tried to go to the market, it was really far away and I didn’t know which bus I had to take and I was really afraid to ask people in English at that time. In class, I always felt confused about what the teacher said. I was shy, so it was a really hard time. (…) But, later, the people living here changed my life. When you are walking on the street, the strangers smile to you and say ‘Hi.’ (…) The most unforgettable thing is that some days ago there was heavy snow and my car was stuck. Six people saw it and came out of their house and helped me to push my car off the roadside. These things really melt my heart, and I think it’s warmer than any emotionless tall building, emotionless sunshine, and emotionless beach in the movies. I think that the real life here is better than what you watch in the movie. I stress that any international student who feels upset here just concentrates and pays attention, and they will find many happy things here.

Q: What is the biggest difference from your home?

A: The biggest thing I think is the people. People are different. I come from a big city in China. (…) The people there are very, very cold to each other. They think they don’t have time to help each other, so they just focus on their own things and don’t focus on other people.

Q: How and why did you choose to come to Marshall?

A: One reason is because of the movie, you know, “We Are Marshall.” I’m a movie fan. I think the most important thing is not the environment. I think the most important thing for me was to choose a university with spirit. I think Marshall is kind of like a group. (…) When I came here I bought a lot of Marshall things like t-shirts, license plates, many Marshall things. It’s like a big family. Even last summer break I went back to China and took many Marshall t-shirts and wore them in China. I think I’m proud I’m from Marshall. There are also many foreigners in my hometown. We’ve talked and they’ve asked me where I am studying in America and I said Marshall University. They said ‘Is that from the football game movie?’ and I said ‘Yes.’ I think the culture, the spirit, made me feel like I love Marshall.

Q: Do you plan on continuing your education at Marshall after you complete the INTO MU program?

A: Yes. I hope I can go to Smith Music Hall to continue my music education.

Q: How do you keep in touch with your family?

A: We have that application called WeChat. WeChat is like WhatsApp. We can make calls every week.

Q: What do you think your favorite experience in America has been?

A: I think I’ve tried to join many activities. I’m in the Chinese Student Association group. Several days ago, there was a Chinese New Year party, and I performed and sang. It’s also like the movies. When I am in America, I just want to do things as American students do. Always join some activities, join some parties, and talk with others.

Q: What are some activities or hobbies that you enjoy?

A: Most of the activities are like performances. Do you remember several months ago on International Festival Day? (…) I also took part in that celebration activity. I danced with my friends. So I like these activities.