A Path Well Traveled: Jonathan Yang’s Journey to Becoming A Doctor

A Path Well Traveled: Jonathan Yang’s Journey to Becoming A Doctor

Jonathan Yang, a 24-year-old doctoral student at Washington University, has lived in four counties and six states in his life. Yang grew up in Taipei, Taiwan an only child, but moved around the globe as his father’s shipping company relocated the family. In the third grade, he moved to New Jersey, went to the Netherlands to finish high school and then returned to the U.S. to attend UCLA, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physiology in 2013. 

He’s now working towards his doctorate in physical therapy, set to graduate in May 2016. Currently he is finishing his clinical requirements in Chicago, and spent ten weeks in Manhattan working IMG_0166at Mount Sinai Roosevelt this summer. Yang has come to embrace his nomadic lifestyle, but hopes to eventually set his roots in a major city somewhere in the U.S. After overcoming tremendous difficulty and countless obstacles, Yang has ambitious goals.

Q: How difficult was the transition when you moved to the U.S. for the first time as a 9 year-old?

A: Going to school, I remember it being very difficult the first three months while I was here. After the first three months, I got into the pattern of how things worked here. I had a great ESL teacher who was very patient. Certainly, I’m very proud of the fact that I am able to speak without too much of an accent.

Q: In addition to the language gap, what were some other challenges of living in the U.S. when you first moved?

A: To be honest, in the beginning, I felt like there was some sort of discrimination, a little bit of racism as well. I lived in a predominantly white town, Whippany. There was only one other Chinese student in my grade. I just felt like I wasn’t really welcome. The language barrier certainly made it difficult. Kids at a young age have difficulty understanding other cultures, or even just a new kid trying to fit in. There were some nice kids though who helped me through the transition, so I’m thankful for them as well.

Q: Were there ever times when you felt isolation?

A: I think for the first year or so, I definitely felt very alone. Going to school was very stressful in the beginning because every day I felt like people were talking to me but I didn’t know what they were saying. It was very uncomfortable. But after a while I adjusted.

Q: What did you find different about American culture?

A: America has a very strong athletic culture that Taiwan didn’t really have, so growing up it wasn’t very important to be competitive in sports. It was maybe more of a pastime, but here, I see kids joining teams at a young age. Soccer, basketball, football, that sort of thing, and I see them being very good at it.

The education emphasis here was also different. In Taiwan we were very math heavy. I think we were doing more advanced stuff compared to when I first moved here. They eventually even out in high school. Education-wise, it was a bit more lax. In Taiwan, even in elementary school you would go home and do homework until 7 p.m. I think it was good for me having a more rigorous schedule in Taiwan, moving here it was an easier transition for me.

Q: What led to your decision to move back to the U.S. and, specifically UCLA?

A: Just with applying for colleges, a big deal in our culture was prestige of the school. I didn’t end up getting into the Ivy Leagues I applied to, but UCLA was considered one the higher rankings schools I got into, so I picked them. And I also wanted to check out the west coast. The west coast is associated with Hollywood, and fame and glory, just making it big, the American dream, that kind of deal.

Q: Why did you choose New York and Mt. Sinai to satisfy your clinical requirement?

A: Since I’m in a hospital setting, I can experience the in-patient aspects of physical therapy, as opposed to an out-patient clinic where people are there for a tune-up or back pain, that kind of deal. I chose Manhattan because I was interested in moving to another big city. My plan is not to stay in St. Louis and look for a job there, but hopefully move to a major city. It’s very important for me to live in a city with an international community and New York has that. People are more accepting of the international population.

Q: What are your goals after you graduate?

A: My hope is to continue practicing physical therapy in the United States. I’m hoping to become more involved in teaching, later. At some point, I’d like to be a clinical instructor that oversees other students. Eventually I would like to be a co-owner of a clinic.

About author

Zac Howard
Zac Howard 5 posts

Zac Howard is a FSU alum and NYU grad student. He loves classic lit, the Miami Dolphins, and Kristen Stewart. For more of his writing, visit his website https://zachowardblog.wordpress.com

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