No. 132


Every year, Shansi House becomes home to Visiting Scholars and friends from our partner institutions in China, India, Indonesia, and Japan. This fall, Shansi welcomes foreign language teaching assistants from Egypt, teaching Arabic at Oberlin, and from Beijing Normal University.

Hengyu Zhang is this year’s Teaching Assistant in Chinese for the East Asian Studies Program. Hengyu hails from Chuzhou in Anhui Province, a city in the eastern part of China with a rich culture and a long history. She felt right at home in Oberlin because it is quiet and filled with trees and birds; Tappan Square reminds her of the parks in Chuzhou.


She is currently in the Master’s graduate program for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at Beijing Normal University, where she previously was a teaching assistant. Her Master’s paper topic deals with methods of teaching Chinese grammar to foreigners. Last summer Hengyu was an instructor in the Princeton in Asia summer school in Beijing. According to Hengyu, “I love to teach Chinese, and my Oberlin students are very diligent.”


One of the many things she enjoyed so far in Oberlin was her first visit to The Feve. She had heard that it was a favorite Obie hangout, and she found the atmosphere very lively and the food delicious. Living in comfortable Shansi House with its large kitchen at her disposal, she’s thinking of learning how to cook Chinese food and hopes to invite her students and colleagues over for a meal one day soon. She is also enjoying making friends with people from all over the world.

Nesren Mohamed abd el Mohsen Hefnawy, who tells everyone to call her Neso, is a Fulbright Arabic Language Teaching Assistant at Oberlin this year. She’s originally from Cairo and graduated from Cairo University in 2011 with a degree in Egyptology from the Department of Archeology. Although she is deeply interested in archeology, she found herself drawn to teaching English after graduation. With this passion as her guide, she worked at several companies as an English Instructor, New Horizons in Alexandria being her final stop before applying for a Fulbright.  


In addition to her passion for teaching English, she loves running, swimming, yoga, and Zumba. She ran a half marathon with the Cairo Runners organization. Traveling, dogs, and spending leisure time in gardens and parks are other activities she relishes.


Her impression of Oberlin is that it has a lovely “vintage” feel, unlike other universities with which she is familiar. She finds the people in Oberlin friendly and supportive, and appreciates that she has the freedom to be herself and the community respects her as a woman who wears a hijab.