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Yang-Yang Chen

  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Columbia University (2000)
  • Volunteered as a telephone counselor at the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia, a nonprofit service dedicated to helping callers identify and combat their legal problems (1999)
  • Studied at the University of Grenoble in Grenoble, France while teaching English part-time at a French public high school, Lycee du Gresivaudan (1998-1999)
  • Worked for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service as a Biological Science Technician studying endangered species of fish in the San Bernardino, Angeles, and Santa Barbara Los Padres National Forests (1997)
  • Participated in Camp Anytown U.S.A., a week-long summer camp for high school students from a diverse range of ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds to explore self-identity, promote mutual understanding, and fight irrational prejudice (1994)
  • Speaks English, Mandarin Chinese, and French
Had Yang-Yang's family not made the bold move from Mainland China to the United States when she was six years old, her life would have turned out completely differently. In Beijing, her parents were teachers at the Beijing Language Institute (yu yan xue yuan) where over the years, they came in contact with foreign students from all over the world. These students came to Beijing to study the Chinese language at a time when China's foreign policy was one of self-containment and the Chinese people were thus virtually shut-off from western cultural, economic, or political influence. Teaching Chinese at yu yan xue yuan was a rare and valuable opportunity for Yang-Yang's parents to be exposed to and influenced by people, cultures, ideas, and ways of life coming from outside of China's borders. When her father was offered a fellowship to pursue graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, her parents jumped at the opportunity to move abroad and give their daughter the chance to live in an environment of more open ideas and expanded opportunities.

After being permanently installed in America, Yang-Yang continued to share her parents' sense of curiousity towards all that is foreign and unfamiliar. In high school, she joined a group of representative students from Japan, Mainland China, and Mongolia on a week-long backpacking trip through the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. The trip was sponsored by the China-Japan Friendship Association, who sought to promote cultural exchange and instill values of overcoming hardship, self-sacrifice for the team, and sustained physical endurance in the young, inexperienced backpackers. She tried to take advantage of every possible opportunity to learn about other cultures and could not wait until the chance to one day live and study in distant and uncertain surroundings on her own. The opportunity finally presented itself in the form of junior year study abroad during college. Yang-Yang chose as her destination Grenoble, capital of the French Alps and home of the 1968 Winter Olympics. Grenoble is a medium-sized college town located near the French-Swiss border, well-known for its captivating mountains and offering of outdoor activities (including paragliding, skiing, hiking, and kayaking).

She deeply enjoyed her year living, studying, and working abroad and was inspired by the French's appreciation of everyday life, of the great outdoors, of spending quality time with family, and of good food. Her year abroad had a significant impact on Yang-Yang's life values and how she plans to live out the rest of her life. Most importantly, it taught her the value of the present and of finding small, but significant, ways to incorporate healthy living and consumption patterns into everyday life.

Yang-Yang is thrilled about being a part of the Odyssey Team as they finish the last stage of the World Trek in Asia. She hopes that her Chinese language skills and memories from living in Beijing will help the team to benefit from a deeper and more intimate interaction with the places they visit and the locals they meet during their China tour. She is very excited about working with the group of inspirational, dedicated, and off-the-beaten path trekkers and staff who make up the Odyssey World Trek family. Yang-Yang thanks her parents for their support, advice, and love throughout the trek.

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