Beating his own drum

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Chris Zhang marches through life to his own beat, illustrated by his love - a drum kit which inspires him to learn and play music.

The Nanjing-born, Sydney resident was only 13 when a beautiful friendship with the drum kit was forged.

“My mum and I were walking down the street past an instrument shop. I spotted this big, beautiful drum kit and I asked her if I could learn drumming. She says yes - as long as I went to lessons, she would buy it for me,” Chris says.

Chris was committed and went to class for three full months and his mum surprised him with a black drum kit for his birthday. Drumming is his ‘thing’ – he played in school assemblies and would ‘jam’ with his friends in China. 

Chris Zhang has always loved playing the drums

Coming to school in Australia when he was 16 was difficult because of his limited English skills. Chris spent a year doing intensive English study before attending a high school in St Ives.

“I stayed at school for eight hours speaking a bit of English, then I went home and spoke all Chinese to my family,” he says. This language double-life was challenging.

It was only after Chris attended a school camp that his language began to rapidly improve. His mum encouraged him to go to make friends and speak more with other students. He was surprised by how much better his English became over the space of the seven-day camp when he was really immersed in the language.

“I was able to learn so much vocabulary because we had to keep speaking all day. It really helped me polish my English. The teachers encouraged us to practise, recommending simple things like shopping and asking for directions,” Chris says.

As he became more confident with English he used it more and more in his favourite subjects – English, Chemistry and Food Technology.

“Learning more English also helped me realise most people are friendly and will reciprocate if you are also friendly,” he says.

Chris Zhang

A by-product of learning more English was that Chris could take on a new part-time job and earn more money in a role that involved interacting with customers at Harris Farm Markets near his home.

He is currently studying a Bachelor of Business in Finance at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) after attending the UTS Insearch, the pathway to UTS. He has learnt lots of practical skills, such as how to use Microsoft Excel to calculate sequences, and is confident his education is preparing him well for a career in investment banking.

Chris hasn’t missed a beat – he’s on the right track to a bright future, with new language skills, a great education and lots of work experience.

< Another way into UTS