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Bergen Collaborates with Chinese Fulbright Scholar to Expand Cultural Experience for Students


Dr. Gang Zhou embarked on an exciting adventure last summer when he traveled halfway around the world to teach at Bergen Community College. While he was excited to learn about a new culture and experience life in the U.S., he never expected to develop close ties to his colleagues and the College’s students.


A dedicated educator, Dr. Gang Zhou has taught in China for the past 30 years as a lecturer, professor and director of teaching. In the summer of 2012, he accepted a position as a Fulbright Scholar in Residence at Bergen Community College for the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters.

As part of the Fulbright Scholar Program, non-U.S. scholars are invited to teach at U.S. higher education institutions to expand the Colleges’ international programs and diversify the educational experiences of students, faculty and the surrounding community.

“With students representing more than 100 countries throughout the world, the College believed that Dr. Zhou’s strong background in intercultural communication and second language acquisition would be an enormous asset to our students and the local community,” said Amparo Codding, Dean, School of Arts, Humanities and Wellness.

Within the first few weeks of teaching, Dr. Zhou observed a noticeable difference between students in China and the U.S.
“Students in China do not raise questions during class or challenge the teacher’s authority,” he said. “However, students in the U.S. primarily learn through questioning and critical thinking. Students at Bergen also are involved with many extracurricular activities, whereas students in China mainly focus on their coursework.”

Dr. Zhou is eager to share his experiences at Bergen with his colleagues in China and to apply his newfound teaching concepts to students.
“I have learned to become more student-centered and not teacher-centered,” he added. “This type of teaching approach is beneficial to future teaching development in China.”

Despite the cultural differences, Dr. Zhou has acclimated well to life at Bergen. He teaches English in the American Language Program at the College and Intercultural Communication in the Communication Department of the School of Arts, Humanities and Wellness. He also will present four to five lectures this spring for the College’s Lois E. Marshall Institute for Learning in Retirement.

“The faculty at Bergen have been extremely helpful and made me feel at home,” said Dr. Zhou. “I also have been invited to serve as a guest speaker at local high schools in Bergen County, where students are studying Chinese.”

Upon completion of the spring semester, Dr. Zhou will travel throughout the U.S. before heading back to China to teach graduate and undergraduate students. His wife serves as a professor at Penn State University and his daughter is a student studying in China.

“Despite living in different states, my wife and I still make time to see each other,” said Dr. Zhou. “I was so busy during the fall semester that she drove to New Jersey every other weekend to visit me. We enjoy going to the movies. This is a new hobby that I have developed since moving to the U.S. It is amazing to me how Americans, both young and old, enjoy going to the movies.

A Fair Lawn resident, Dr. Zhou has had to adjust to living in an area that is much busier than his hometown in China. “There is a lot more traffic and I also live close to the train tracks but I’m enjoying my experience so much at Bergen Community College that I hope to return in two years when I’m eligible to participate in the Fulbright Scholar Program again.”

Dr. Zhou holds advanced degrees from the Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University, Wales, and Nanyang University of Technology, Singapore. He also has written numerous articles and books.

Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu)  based in Paramus is a public two-year coeducational college, enrolling more than 17,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip J. Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields.

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