Greater China Business Association
Until she came to study in the Tippie College of Business, Jiazi Zhou had rarely ever been away from home.
"My life needed a challenge," said the finance and accounting major from Jinan in Shandong Province. "I'd been studying English since I was 12, and I wanted to study abroad because China isn't as diverse as the United States. I'm really in to different cultures, and I wanted the opportunity to interact with other cultures and to practice my English."
After talking with several friends who had attended the University of Iowa, she knew Iowa was the perfect place for her.
"It's not like the larger cities of Los Angeles or New York where there is a large Chinese group living there and where you needn't speak English much," said Zhou. "Iowa City is a town where international students fit in because people are friendly and willing to talk with you, plus there aren't a lot of distractions from study, which is a bonus."
Her "Iowa family," she says, includes the many members of the Greater China Business Association (GCBA), one of 20 student organizations at Tippie.
"I did a little research before joining, and I learned it was founded by domestic students in 2002," said Zhou. "Back then, there weren't as many Chinese students in the college, so they created the organization because they didn't have access to as much information as they wanted to learn about China and Taiwan."
Over time, membership swung the other direction, and the membership was predominantly Chinese students. That has changed, though, after the recent recruitment period this past spring.
"I found this to be a big problem for the future development of the organization because it strays away from the original mission statement, which is to help both U.S. and Chinese students to understand each other and to share and learn more about international business," said Zhou, the current GCBA president.
With "a good number" of domestic students now members, Zhou says that has changed the dynamic of the group.
"When it was mostly Chinese students, domestic students would come to one of our events and they'd feel a little uncomfortable being in the minority," said Zhou. "It can be the same for international students, too. We have to learn to break out of our comfort zones, which is challenging for everyone. GCBA is just one group and one way to create more opportunities for all students to break their comfort zones."
Zhou has had plenty of opportunity to practice her speaking skills outside the classroom and the GCBA, too. She has been a member of several case competition teams, traveling to Madison for the Big Ten Leadership Case Competition, to Arizona for the Eller Ethics Case Competition in Tucson, and to Chicago for the Deloitte Audit Student Competition.
Zhou hopes to continue the challenge of living and working in the United States after graduation, but first she'll intern with Aviva Investors this fall.