Born in Myanmar to a Chinese family, Zhang was not recognized as a Burmese citizen, which limited his educational opportunities. He traveled to Mandalay, one of Myanmar’s largest cities, to go to school.
He eventually joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a mission to Australia. While there, his mission president encouraged him to apply for admission at Brigham Young University-Hawaii following his mission. Zhang did, and doors of opportunity opened for him to get his education.