I chose Sheffield because it was one of the more affordable and one of the safest cities to study in. The Student Union was one of the best in the UK

Kaishan Kong
Kaishan Kong
Associate Professor of Chinese
MA Intercultural Communication
Kaishan is an Associate Professor of Chinese and the advisor for the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, U.S.
Kaishan Kong

What is your job and the main responsibilities? 

I am an Associate Professor of Chinese and the advisor for the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, U.S. 

My main responsibilities include teaching a variety of courses related to Chinese language and culture, second language acquisition, intercultural competence, as well as advising students in the Chinese Certificate Program and the TEFL program. 

How has your MA qualification helped you in your career?

The MA qualification provided a theoretical foundation that I could build on as I continued my PhD in language and culture education, and allowed me to build my career as a scholar and educator.  

What is an average day like for you in your current job?

I normally begin my day by creating a to-do list for the day, which is an important daily routine as it helps me prioritize my tasks to ensure a productive day. Then I will teach one or two classes, and continue with my office hour with students. I will have around 1-2 hours for my research and checking emails. Regardless of how busy I am, I would not forget two personal hobbies on a daily basis: practicing Japanese and French on a language learning app called Duolingo, and playing my ukulele ☺

What do you think is the most exciting thing you've done as part of your current job?

The most exciting thing I’ve done as part of my current job was leading study abroad trips. One memorable trip was taking three undergraduate students to Chengdu, China, on an International Fellows Program. While in China, we joined many local volunteers to offer an English summer camp for 23 underprivileged children in China. Another memorable trip was taking 13 students to Guatemala to explore social justice and environmental issues in Guatemala. We got to learn about the local coffee industry and built houses for the local community. 

What is your greatest achievement to date?

In my current position, my greatest achievement is having created a Chinese Certificate Program from scratch. I was the first full-time tenure-track faculty hired by the university and my vision was to build a program. Over the years, I developed a sequence of course offerings to students who were interested in Chinese language and culture; I created study abroad programs and took students to China for research; I built a multi-year tandem learning program to connect students in the Chinese language class with native speakers of Chinese so they supported each other in language and culture learning. The Chinese Certificate Program was offered in 2018 and we have over 30 students declaring this certificate. 

As a scholar and educator in general, my greatest achievement is receiving the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Award 2020 that recognizes my work in promoting intercultural communication in world language education. 

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in pursuing a career in your field of work?

I would encourage you to start doing research, presenting at conferences and publishing your work. Work with your advisors and recommend yourself for any research projects that can help you understand the field better. Also, consider pursuing your PhD program. 

What were your previous academic qualifications?

  • B.A. in English Education from Zhanjiang Normal University in China
  • M.A. in Intercultural Communication from the University of Sheffield in the UK
  • Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota in the US

What were your career aspirations when you were younger?

When I was younger, I aspired to be an interpreter, a diplomat, a journalist and a lawyer. Although I am not in any of these professions, in retrospect, these careers all require strong communication skills. And that’s why my choice to study intercultural communication was wise ☺

What impact has attending an overseas University had on you?

Studying abroad transformed my way of thinking. The cultural differences broadened my horizon and dismantled many stereotypes that I had had. The cultural adjustment process pushed me out of my comfort zone to become more flexible and resilient. I was exposed to incredible cultural diversity and was intrigued to make connections between cultures. 

What advice would you give to young people considering University in the UK?

Simply, I would say “Do it!” During your study abroad, please be sure to engage in not only campus activities but also the community. Learning in class can offer you important theoretical knowledge and skills that you can apply in reality. Interacting with the community and the society (through part-time jobs, volunteering, events, etc.) will be a unique opportunity for you to apply these skills in an authentic environment. 

Why did you choose Sheffield? / What sets Sheffield apart from other Universities?

I chose Sheffield because it was one of the more affordable and one of the safest cities to study in. The Student Union was one of the best in the UK. 

What other elements of University life/extra-curricular activities helped you to achieve success?

I was impressed by the wide range of volunteer opportunities offered through the university, and that was a great chance for me to get to know the community and meet local people. 

What did you most enjoy about your time at Sheffield?

I enjoyed the most being an international student ambassador for the International Students Office during my time. Through this part-time job, I made phone calls to offer holders in China and encouraged them to choose Sheffield by sharing my own very positive experiences here. I got to be the tour guide for various visiting delegations from China, and I helped to welcome new cohorts during the orientation time. These opportunities really enhanced my communicative skills. 

Why would you recommend the University of Sheffield as a good place to study?

The University of Sheffield is a place of energy, innovation, dedication and diversity. I am impressed by the investment in education and the numerous renowned scholars in the field. Student development offers incredible opportunities for students to develop their potential and interests. The city itself is down-to-earth, affordable, and dynamic. 

In one sentence, how would you describe the impact Sheffield had on your career and life after University?

Sheffield expanded my horizon on cultural diversity, and it inspired me to continue the intercultural journey as a person and a scholar. 

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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