#StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives

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Jenny Zheng, 25, is the Founder of Little Fluffy Head Cafe, one of the first cheese tea boba shops in Los Angeles of its kind (read our interview - and a recipe - with her here). She graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a Master’s degree in Bioengineering in 2016. While on a trip to Asia before graduation, she stumbled upon the latest millennials craze: cheese tea. Being a big fan of cheese, she obsessed on bringing the concept to the U.S.. So upon graduation, instead of going a traditional route with her degree, Zheng decided to spend the time to develop her own version of creamy cheese tea and opened her very first cafe in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles in the summer of 2017. Right now, she is fully dedicated to running the cafe to provide her customers the highest-quality and authentic cheese tea.

Jenny Zheng: #StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives

What motivated your decision to come to the U.S.?
I came to the States when I was 16. Back then my parents made the decision of sending me abroad to study. They believed that studying abroad would broaden my view and help me make better judgments, which I was lacking at the time.  

Jenny Zheng: #StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives
In the second month after I landed on American soil. I was with some new friends I met in high school.

What has your experience been like so far?
There were ups and downs. The first couple months were hard. I was quiet because I was intimidated by the language and culture barriers. I wanted to hang out with my classmates after school but I was too afraid to talk to them using my broken English. My high school offered a lot of different programs to help international students like me and to make the transition smoother. I grabbed on to every opportunity out there, such as joining school volleyball team, debate club, etc. that would help improve my English speaking and writing skills.

Things became even more interesting when I went to college. I met friends from all over the world, and I got to help the newcomers adapt to the new environment and shared with them my early experience. Overall, I would rate my experience with an A. I am lucky that the people that I have met along the way are all very generous and helpful.

What do you like most about studying in the U.S.?
I like the most about studying here is the freedom to pursue things outside of regular school subjects. Back in China, I wasn't able to go out on weekends to learn about painting or music, because it would take up the time to study regular school subjects, leaving me behind and making me less competitive compared to other students. Here I had the option to add painting or art history as a part of my study program, anything I learned will accumulate my credits for graduation. I didn't have to worry about splitting my time between painting and science, because they were all considered learning experiences here. 

What are some challenges you have faced while studying here? 
One of the main challenges I had to overcome was the feeling of homesickness. On every Chinese holiday, I would Facetime my family. Watching them gathered around the table and cheered to the holidays, I felt lonely and terrible. Sometimes the feeling was so strong that I started to question myself if all the efforts I put in for studying abroad were worth it. 

Jenny Zheng: #StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives
From one of the summers when I spent couple weeks in our high school principal's house to learn about American culture. 

What skills have you developed so far from your experience studying abroad?  
My English skills have improved so much from the beginning. I can use Chinese and English interchangeably without any problem. Besides that, I have learned how to drive and cook for myself. I have learned how to ski, which would have never happened if I were still living in China. (I lived in a city that never snows.) 

Do you feel changed thus far from your time abroad?  
I have become more independent. Back home, my parents took care of everything. Now without my family's help, I had to learn things on my own in order to survive, from the basics such as how to use a washing machine to complicated matters such as setting up bank accounts, my own insurance, and paying my taxes. In addition, there are a lot of things I didn't know in the first place. I have to go out of my comfort zone sometimes so I can get the answers I want. As a result, I have become a more expressive person.  

Jenny Zheng: #StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives
From my college commencement back in the summer of 2015. I was saying goodbyes to my friends at the time and was very emotional. 

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
My international education has a huge impact on my cultural identity. Before I moved to the States, I would act like a Chinese, I would think like a Chinese, and I would obey all traditional Chinese manners. For example, in Chinese culture, we don't directly express ourselves. If I am at a dinner party and I am full, rejecting the host for additional food is considered rude, whereas here we are taught to be expressive about our opinions. My culture identity has altered to adapt to the western culture. 

Why do you think international education is important? 
I think international education is important because it will give you the chance to broaden your view and put everything into perspective. I was lucky that my parents made the decision for me, and my experience so far has taught me things I would have never learned just by reading a textbook. My international education has helped me search for independence. I think it will help you find your own personalities, because you are exploring everything in a strange environment and you are more likely to go out of your way to try things and find out you are good at them. It is definitely a rewarding experience. Without my experience, I would never had the courage to start my own business, going out of my comfort zone to pursue the things I want.

Jenny Zheng: #StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives
Me throwing my hat to the sky at the end of the college commencement. 

#StudyAbroadBecause You Will Gain Perspectives



All photos courtesy and copyright Jenny Zheng