Like many international students, June Zhou, ’13, chose to attend the University of Richmond because of its nationally recognized undergraduate business program. She’s now on her way to a career in hospitality management — but it’s the things she does outside of the classroom that really bring to life her interest in working with people.
Born in Hungary to Chinese parents, raised in Ghana, and educated in the British system, Zhou came to Richmond with a unique perspective on cultures, lifestyles and interpersonal interactions. “If I just grew up in one place, I probably wouldn’t have this perspective on different people and different cultures,” she says.
Her independent spirit has helped her seek out many opportunities on campus and take advantage of resources offered by the University’s student development and support offices. She is a leadership member of a new student organization called Students Supporting Peers in Laid-back Listening (SPILL), has participated in a spiritual retreat with the Chaplaincy, and mentors other students through the Peer Advising and Mentoring program and as a resident assistant, among other activities.
“All of these activities have helped me get to know people,” she says. “And helping other people makes me happy.”
She hopes to find similar rewards working in the hospitality industry. She explains that she is drawn to the field because of the opportunity “to interact with different people and provide a good service so they feel satisfied.” A summer job with the University’s catering department helped her to get some experience, while her major in business administration with a concentration in management will prepare her for specialized hospitality management studies in graduate school.
Zhou speaks English and Mandarin Chinese, though her reading and writing skills in the latter are limited. When she studies abroad in Beijing next fall, she will work on these, but also learn about her cultural heritage. “I might go to China to work in the future,” she says. “I know nothing about my [Chinese] culture since I grew up in Ghana. I think I really should find out about it.”
On campus, Zhou is exploring some aspects of her heritage through her involvement with groups like Asian Beats — an Asian-themed hip-hop dance club — and the Asian Student Union (ASU). She traces her love for dance back to a traditional Ghanaian dance troupe in which she took part as a teenager; ASU helps her connect with other international students, including those from China.
Zhou joined a group of 11 students who traveled with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to the East Coast Asian American Student Union conference this semester. With workshops on cultural topics like taiko drumming and issues such as stereotyping, she found the conference enlightening. “Although I am Asian, I am not Asian-American, yet I could relate to some of the stereotypical issues that were brought up,” she reflects. “I understand this because I grew up in a non-Asian country.” She hopes to encourage other international students to attend the conference in the future in order to foster diversity at Richmond.
Such a full plate keeps Zhou busy, but being half way around the world from family motivates her to connect with the people and opportunities that do surround her. “I want to make the most out of my life right now,” she says. “I’m a really determined person, and I want to be in the loop, to be involved.”