The story of Steven Yong, formerly known as Yang Yong, a secondary education major at Lee University, is further evidence of Cleveland’s diverse culture.
Yong grew up in Shandong, China. “I lived there for 19 years before moving to the big city (Changsha),” Yong said. He has two older siblings. “The best days of my life, other than being in America, is my childhood,” Yong admits. However, he grew up very poor.
“My dream as a kid was to drink a Coke every day. I never even heard of chewing gum until I went to middle school,” he said.
Though he grew up in poverty, he did not let it distract him from acquiring an education. Yong attended Hunan Normal University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English.
Upon receiving his degree, Yong decided to further his education in the U.S. and study at Lee University. “I heard about Lee through my English professor, David Lindahl, who studied at Lee, also, and earned his master’s degree from abroad.”
Yong and his English teacher, Lindahl, developed a strong student teacher relationship. Lindahl and wife Beth’s goals and hospitality did not just spark Yong’s interest to study abroad, but also triggered something within him spirituality.
“I was an atheist before my foreign teacher (Lindahl) brainwashed me,” he jokes. “I became a Christian in 2009. I was the first person within my family to become a Christian,” Yong says.
Yong elaborates on his Christian experiences. “My first church experience was in China. It was a little weird for me because everyone was crying, and praying, but also involved and passionate,” he continues, “In America church is very fancy. There are decorations and the people are dressed up and very professional.”
Yong arrived in the U.S. in July 2009 and says his assumptions about America did not let him down. “America is well developed. The structures of houses are all similar, but decorated differently. For instance, the houses I’ve lived in all had a kitchen, a basement and a guestroom with two pillows (on the bed).” He continues, “I adapted easily to the culture because it is somewhat similar to China’s, except the people are different and the food is different.”
Though Yong adapted easily to the American culture, he still maintained his own identity through Chinese traditions. “I still respect old people, and authority. I still find authority to be intimidating. I also have different expectations within relationships. I believe that they should be more connected.”
Yong elaborates on his contact with his family, also, since his move. “I haven’t seen my family since I moved here. I’m the first in my family to attend college, so we don’t talk much about school. My mom usually tells me ‘Don’t be lazy, get up early, be clean, and eat more.’”
Yong plans on graduating from Lee with a secondary degree in education in May 2012. His goal after graduation is to one day earn his doctorate in education.
“Dr. Gray (associate professor of Chinese at Lee University) suggested that I apply to Stanford. I even think about attending Harvard, but not very soon.
I would like to get a job, have a family, and then go back to school for my doctorate. It would take lots of books, time, and focus,” he continues. “I hope I can be a man of good character and integrity.”