From Eastern Roots to Global Ambitions: An Asian Woman’s Path to Cambridge

posted in: Kaleidoscope Series | 0

Written by Dr Xunzhe (Amy) Zhang, Executive MBA 2023 Student

Dr Xunzhe (Amy) Zhang, Executive MBA 2023 Student

When you hear of an “Asian woman with a PhD,” what comes to mind? Petite, introverted, quiet, a bookworm… These might be stereotypes, but in some ways, they describe me. However, that is not the entirety of who I am, as I have been breaking them all along.

Born in a big city in China, raised in an intellectual family, and being the only child, I grew up with certain expectations of an “excellent woman”: excel in studies, attend a top university, earn the highest degree, build a happy family, and lead a stable life. While largely embracing these values, I have always kept a rebellious streak.

When it came time to choose my undergraduate subject, many believed that girls should opt for social science. However, I rebelliously thought, why cannot girls excel in STEM? Yet, after enrolling in one of China’s top universities to study Engineering, I realised that I was not particularly interested in becoming an engineer. Upon graduation, I decisively switched my direction, pursuing a Master’s in Education, followed by a PhD course. Halfway through my doctoral study, I longed to see more of the world. I came to the UK and started a new journey in a PhD in Education, overcoming language barriers, cultural differences, and adjustment challenges to graduate.

February 2024 Kaleidoscope Talk

Working in the educational assessment industry these years, where most of my colleagues were white British, I often faced various challenges as one of the very few Asian women. Especially using English as a second language, to play my strengths was quite a challenge. I had to work extremely hard to prove my value, rarely taking holidays abroad like others. In a few years after graduation, I grew as a technical team leader.

EMBA 2023 Cohort sharing a Lunar New Year celebration dinner

As the career glass ceiling loomed closer, I pondered what would next be in my career. It was by chance that I learned about the Executive MBA program at Cambridge Judge Business School. It resonated with a deeply buried entrepreneurial dream of mine – to use my expertise in education to help change more people’s lives. I was incredibly lucky to get admitted into this world-renowned institution I had always aspired to.

In just a few months, I have already acquired insights and formed invaluable connections with many peers, each offering unique perspectives enriching my entrepreneurial journey. This experience has been empowering me to transcend my self-imposed stereotypes. I am more than just a petite “Asian woman with a PhD”; I can grow to be a strong, global entrepreneur, embracing a world full of diverse opportunities. The journey towards my dream may be filled with challenges, but I am bolstered by the support of the Executive MBA programme and the friendship of my cohort fellows. Together, we are a constellation of aspiring visionaries, and I am confident that we will each realise our dreams here.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn

Discover more about the Executive MBA Programmes at Cambridge.