Sometimes the answer to life doesn’t come straightforward. Nor is it for Jeannie Chen. Jeannie started her college at UCLA majoring in piano performance, later transferred to an English major at Cal State Northridge, and lately returned to UCLA for a Master in library information.
Jeannie dreamed to be a professional piano performer when she started college. She went from concerts to concerts, practiced and competed to refine her skills, while constantly learning to cope with her growing perfectionism. It gradually became common for her to be immersed in her own music world all day, and at one point she decided that such isolated lifestyle was not the best match to her personality.
The decision to change major was a hard one, but Jeannie is glad that she was able to make up her mind, and picked up her love of reading since childhood. She came across her mentor at Northridge who, as a professor of English literature, guided her to go after her academic enthusiasm. From there she joined the English honor program that laid the foundation for her literature studies, travelled on conferences to communicate with scholars across the country, and on the side, connected her to her family history through Asian American literature.
Growing up as a Chinese American, Jeannie was exposed to the Chinese cultural heritage. The connections, however, became stronger as she specialized in archival studies at UCLA. Jeannie benefits from the courses and resources on Asian American studies provided by UCLA, and the effort of the library information department to diversify the program. She sees the impact that archival documents can have both on individuals and on the present society. “Now in my 20s, I start to think consciously about how the (Chinese American) history influenced my family and myself individually.” She started volunteering at Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, documenting and educating people on the Chinese American history. “We are trying to preserve the memories, and making sure multiple stories can be told, not just one.”
While finding her cultural identity and contributing to the community, Jeannie constantly found her way back to her music background. She worked at Music & Media Department at the Oviatt Library at Northridge, and received a scholarship to study on jazz archives in the coming summer. Life never gives a hint of what is coming to Jeannie’s life, but she is prepared to keep exploring the world in different perspectives, and one day to connect all the dots.
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