Chinese American from Boston, MA
Chinese American from Boston, MA
Stanley is a passionate business student from the Boston University class of 2016 . Very self-aware and critical of himself, Stanley is someone who is driven to constantly improve on his strengths and weaknesses. I caught up with him one summer morning to talk about about his experiences growing up in New York City’s Chinatown and a small suburban town in Connecticut.
“I was mostly raised by my grandma who my family doesn’t communicate with anymore. I lived with her in Chinatown until I was 5 or 6. My parents were working at that time – my dad was working for my cousin’s dad and he lived with my uncle. My younger sister was sent to China to live with other grandparents because we didn’t have the money to take care of her. We were all split apart.”
“When my dad started his first business, my sister came back, and we moved to this single room apartment in Connecticut. The apartment was literally the room. I remember us living next to a police station in a rough neighborhood and having to go downstairs through the laundromat to use the bathroom. I still spent weekends in New York because my parents were so busy with the new business.”
Stanley recalls the stark differences having had grown up in NYC’s Chinatown and then moving to Connecticut.
“Living in Chinatown was really comfortable because around me were a lot of doting old Chinese people. There were very few non Asian faces around. It felt like a big family because everywhere I walked, every older person acted like my grandparent. They take care of you like their own. Even if they don’t know you, they’re like ‘child, I will take care of you.'”
“Moving to Connecticut felt a lot more alienating. It was a foreign place to me because there weren’t any Chinese people. There was mostly hispanic and black people around me and at that time I barely knew english. I grew up mainly speaking Chinese because of living in Chinatown and my parents’ English wasn’t very good. I had to take ESL classes .”
His parents also had some difficulties adjusting . . .
“In kindergarten, everyone had packed lunches and I didn’t have that or anything. I actually didn’t eat for the first week because my parents didn’t know that the school didn’t provide food for kindergarteners. They provided snacks but not actual meals and all the other kids came prepared for blankets for nap time, snacks, and meals. I didn’t have those things.It was difficult to enter that world but after my teacher talked to them, they went HAM. My parents just didn’t know so then they gave me all this Chinese food to bring to school, a whole box full.”
While his parents were at work, Stanley became an adult very fast . . .
“My parents started letting us stay home alone in second grade when we had fully moved out of Chinatown. Because my parents were never home, me and my sister spent a lot of time together, I basically took care of her.”
“Before we would leave to go to school, I would get ready on my own and then help my sister. We would go to school on the the school bus and my parents would get home around midnight every nigh. We would go to bed by 8 and we wouldn’t really see our parents till the weekend.”
Stanley reflects on living in a community that wasn’t racially diverse and his experience in high school . . .
“I grew up in a community that was not so racially diverse. I never got really bullied for being different. I mean, kids will be kids and when I was younger they would say generic things like, ‘oh you have slanted eyes or whatever.’. But I still made a lot of friends and I was very friendly and social. I think it’s hard for people to be mean to someone who is so friendly and nice. I never had ill thoughts, or garner hatred and anger towards them. They can’t help that they’re ignorant because they’ve never been exposed to other races.”
“In high school, I felt especially alienated. During school I was a different person than who I was at home. I think in high school, I adapted to what was most comfortable – I played sports, I was athletic, I drifted towards whoever was willing to accept me. I really tried hard to be a people pleaser. I think that’s the biggest difference between me now and me then, because now I don’t try I just am. Back then there were all these groups that I could appeal to and I wanted to appeal to all of them.”
And some advice that he wants to share with those who feel alienated in their communities . . .
“Sometimes the present sucks and there’s nothing you can really do about it, but you have to have hope for the future.The world is getting bigger and people are slowly getting more educated and becoming less ignorant. You will have the opportunity to explore many more communities that will accept you in the future as long as you keep those opportunities open for you. I think college helps Asian Americans a lot. Like whether you come from neighborhoods that are dominantly Asian or not, college really helps you find a community that makes you feel accepted.”
On what made him so strong. . .
“I’ve always been the type to rationalize things alone. I’m someone who really believes in logic and it’s gotten me really far in a lot of things. When I’m by myself, I like to analyze things in the world and myself. I’m really critical of myself. That’s why I can’t sit alone for too long because I’ll get down to it and think about what I can do better and what’s wrong with me.”
“If I find myself doing something I don’t believe in, I really beat myself over it. Even if it’s an uncontrollable feeling like feeling insecure. I really don’t like insecure people but sometimes I get insecure. . . everyone does, and when I see that about myself I’m like, ‘Stanley!’ . I don’t like that people get hung up over something that they can’t change or that don’t need changing . Because to me, if you can’t take an action to change something it’s meaningless to think about. Being insecure just hinders you from doing other things so I try to be mature and I think insecurity is a sign of immaturity. “
Lastly, Stanley shares his passion for business and extra curricular activities . . .
“I’m good at doing business. At first I wanted to go to law school, I thought I was going to do corporate law so I started business school for undergrad. But what really had me stay in business is all the clubs at my school. I think Finance club really drew me to going into business because they taught me how to invest really actively. A lot of upperclass men had shown great success in their field, especially not being from an ivy school, it’s very reassuring to see upperclassmen and alumni come back that are doing so well
“I helped found a club called TAMID, which is also a Jewish consulting group with my friend. I’m also in KSA, CSA, BU weight lifting . I think the clubs that you choose will define who you hang out with and who you hang out with will define you in a way. It’s a big defining factor for who you are. When I say that Stanley Zheng is a fiancé major who likes to lift and is really connected in the Asian community, that’s reflected in all my clubs. I think your extra curricular activities help define who you are. Try all the clubs and then drop the ones that don’t really represent you or aren’t the type of people who you want to surround yourself with.”