2016-10-01 / Spotlight


Sharon Shen, Executive Director | Global Connections
Maggie Anderson | photos by Matt Fern

When Sharon Shen came to the United States from China 13 years ago, she was a grad student at Penn State. Global Connections, an organization that works to connect and strengthen international relationships in our community, helped her with that adjustment. “I met great, amazing friends through that experience,” she says. “It helped to open up the world for me.” Now, as the new executive director of Global Connections, she gets to help do the same for other international students and local residents alike. We caught up with the world traveler to hear what, beyond her husband Kevin and sons August, 3, and Leo, 2, keeps her moving.

“Travel is important in my life. It’s actually an indispensable item with my side of the family living on the other side of the globe. Travel allows me to stay connected to them, and travel helps me to maintain a perspective of the existence of a bigger world beyond my immediate surroundings.” Plus, Shen’s work at Global Connections allows her to interact with international visitors every day. “You get to meet amazing people from all over the world.”

“Thirteen years ago when I first came to the U.S., I never cooked a dish before, but last month I taught a group how to make delicious vegetarian dishes. Today I cook not because I have to, but because I love to. This is my favorite wok, a 13-inch carbon steel. It’s not only inexpensive and durable, the carbon steel heats up really quickly and evenly.”

“Ever since I had August, I have been using this almost on a daily basis. I can carry August for hours and hours and still feel strong. For me, this carrier symbolizes freedom. My world doesn’t have to shrink because I have young babies; instead I can share the world with them. I have carried them using this walking on the streets of Rome, strolling by the seashore in the Dominican Republic, hiking in the local woods, and transferring between stations in China.”

“I’m a first-time gardener. My thumb is yet to turn greener, but gardening has brought me so much fun, and it feels like I’m adventuring into a new territory. It’s always nice to have organic, fresh vegetables on the table in the summer.” This season, Shen grew tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peppers, carrots and multiple varieties of lettuce.

“This picture of me with my two boys was taken before my full-time job. It is precious because it recorded a special state for me. Back then, I worked from home and made my own schedules, so I could spend more time with my boys. Together, we visited parks, hiked in the woods, picked berries, went on play dates and to story time at Schlow Library. And sometimes they would just hang out on the kitchen floor while I was cooking and baking.”

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