August 28, 2012

Global Traveler Teng ’16 Makes a Pit Stop at Cornell

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This article is part of students’ stories, a series profiling students across campus.

For Zhichong “Arthur” Teng ’16, his journey last week from a small town outside of Los Angeles to Cornell last week was neither the first nor the farthest one he has taken. When Teng was in the second grade, he and his family moved from Nanjing, China, across the globe to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for his father’s job.

Upon arriving in Brazil, Teng did not know a word of English or Portuguese, making the transition from China extremely difficult, he said.

But Teng’s father enrolled him in an international school, and now, Teng is quadrilingual — fluent in his native language of Chinese, as well as English, Portuguese and Spanish.

It was in Brazil that Teng encountered the first of what would become several major cultural transitions during his childhood. Teng said he observed that, compared to what he perceived as the “introverted attitude” of people in China, Brazilians were more personable and friendly.

“Even if you don’t know them, you want to say hi to them … I think that kind of shaped my personality,” Teng said.

Teng said that attending an international school while living in Brazil allowed him to have a smooth transition into high school when he moved, yet again, to his current home in Diamond Bar, Calif.

Teng came to Cornell this fall as an environmental engineering major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He said he was first attracted to environmental studies because he used to help his grandfather, a professor at the University of Nanjing in China, translate articles about the environment from Chinese to English.

Teng’s grandfather also helped him gain experience in the field: connectin him, for example, with an internship at the Polar Research Institute of China in Shanghai andhelping him obtain an assistant position with a professor of geology at Arizona State University.

After developing interests in both engineering and environmental science, Teng said he decided to combine his passions by studying environmental engineering. In particular, he hopes to apply his education to address current environmental problems.

“I think I can do something good to this world,” Teng said.

Now that he has arrived on The Hill, Teng said he must again adjust to living in a new place. Though he has only been at Cornell for more than a week, Teng said the people he has met so far have been friendly and outgoing.

Still, he said, “it’s a really new experience.”

Original Author: Caroline Flax