ALI Student Profile – Yanying “Toto” Deng

Yanying Toto Deng

Yanying “Toto” Deng

Chinese native Yanying “Toto” Deng came to SDSU’s American Language Institute to improve her English through the Intensive English for Communication (IEC) and International Business English (IBE) programs.

Little did she know she would stay longer than planned to help improve other people’s lives by taking part in the first Social Entrepreneurship (SE) class at ALI, which focuses on creating businesses that solve social problems.

After spending 15 months in San Diego, Toto left in early June to complete the final year of her master’s degree in cross-cultural communications at a Japanese university. Then she will head into the working world in corporate communications and continue her SE work through volunteer cross-cultural programs.

While at the ALI, she showed her entrepreneurial spirit by organizing a multi-cultural event for more than 100 students from local community colleges and universities. Among the countries represented were Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, and Mexico.

During the festivities, Toto played a Chinese guitar, known as a pipa.

“It’s really a special instrument,” she said. “I played it to introduce my culture. The people in Japan were interested when I played it there, too.”

The event was among many reasons Toto believed it was special to have stayed at ALI four extra months to take part in the first semester of the SE program.

“We were like a family,” she said. “We did a lot of things together. We went to lunch, dinner, hung out together, and traveled to Las Vegas.”

Always the adventurous and outgoing type, Toto first began displaying her personality early in elementary school. She was selected by her second-grade teacher to emcee an event on campus.

“She picked me and asked me to speak loudly,” Toto said. “I didn’t feel afraid. I became the emcee for two years at our school.”

The Beijing native continued her education through high school in China, then moved to Tokyo as an undergraduate to major in business management. She finished the first of two years working toward a master’s degree in Japan before coming to the ALI to learn English.

“My English has improved a lot since I came here,” she said. “Some of my teachers say it is a miracle for me. My goal was to study English so I would be able to work for an international company and be able to travel the world focusing on speaking and communication.”

Toto hopes to be an organizer in the entertainment business, perhaps helping develop commercials for the Internet. When that happens, she will fondly recall developing her skills at the ALI.

“I really liked San Diego,” she said. “I felt very comfortable. I was able to have a more open personality in San Diego. The people were really friendly.”

Being friendly is a trait that certainly matches her personality.