Student Stories: Xuechao Zhang

Xuechao Zhang

Major: Associate in Science

Xuechao Zhang moved to California in high school through a foreign student exchange program.

Her positive experience led her mother and brothers to follow her. However, after she graduated from high school, her mom moved back to China to help her medical practice get out of bankruptcy.

With her mother living in China, Zhang was the sole provider and caretaker of her two younger brothers. She had started taking classes at a local community college in Los Angeles but had to drop out in order to work full-time. She cleaned houses, tutored, waitressed and babysat while her brothers were at school.

At 21, Zhang decided to move her and her brothers across the country to Naperville after being unhappy with the school districts in California.

“It was a rough time,” she said. “I never thought I’d be able to go to school again because my priorities had to shift.”

Once her brothers were settled into a new school, Zhang knew she needed to make her education a priority. She found College of DuPage at the perfect time, she said.

“My experience at a community college in California was terrible and I thought that’s how all community colleges were,” she said. “But at COD, the faculty became like family to me. At the time I was only 23, but I didn’t live like a normal 23-year-old. Everyone I encountered at COD was supportive of helping me in any way they could.”

Scholarships at COD

Zhang spent her days juggling three jobs, a full load of classes and a busy home life. Earning a COD Succeeds Scholarship helped her pay for tuition so she could remain on track with her Associate of Science degree.

“I wouldn’t have been able to continue as a full-time student without that money,” she said. “One thousand dollars might not be a lot to some people, but to me that was the difference between quitting school or continuing. I don’t qualify for financial aid due to my unique situation, so this scholarship was my only chance.”

In between classes, Zhang worked in the Field and Experiential Learning/Study Abroad/Global Education office as a student worker. Field and Experiential Learning Manager Maren McKellin said Zhang was a most-deserving recipient of the scholarship.  

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with many high-achieving students over the years,” she said. “Xuechao stands out in that crowd. She balanced a challenging academic course load with an equally demanding personal life—all of this while giving nothing less than 100 percent to her job. I know that she will continue to excel academically as a thank you for the scholarship and to those who found her worthy of this honor.”

Everyone I encountered at COD was supportive of helping me in any way they could.

Xuechao Zhang

Zhang transferred to Northern Illinois University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. She currently is focusing on clinical diagnostic research and marketing outreach for Neelyx Labs.

As for COD, she was sad to leave the institution that helped jump-start her education.

“I wanted to stay forever,” she said. “I miss my teachers, friends and the community I formed there. COD gave me a future.”

Learn more about the Biology program at College of DuPage