What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
My friend, Teeraporn Johsuntorn (TJ), asked me one day, “Michelle, what would you do if you were not afraid?” I could not answer the question immediately. There were so many things I wanted to do but never did. TJ told me that she was inspired by the book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Sandberg, S. 2013). She asked herself this question and decided to do something brave. In November 2016, TJ and her friends Zirui Yan and Dasom Jung founded a social circle on campus at Northeastern University called “Lean In Circle” for gathering people to learn and grow together. After I read this book, I wanted to gain more understanding about her initiative, the ‘circle’ and what made her take a stand.
In May 2017, TJ and I graduated from Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies Corporate and Organizational Communications program. TJ is from Thailand, me from China. I was curious to hear more about how the Lean In Circle worked and her plan for the future. In fact, the three co-founders of the Lean In Circle are all international students. Each had a hard time when they first came to the U.S. “I was very excited to come here, but after I had come, I realized that I was far away from home, my culture, my friends, and everything I used to have. I felt lonely, helpless and confused,” TJ shared.
TJ had been living in the U.S. for four years. She was very familiar with American culture and has many nice friends around her. From the interactions with other international students, there was a realization that international female students may meet many challenges and it would be great if there could be an open space for them to share and grow together. The founders decided to help the people who were also suffering from loneliness and helpless feelings. TJ recalled, “When Zirui (Linda) mentioned starting the Lean In To Grow Circle, I wanted to be a part of it immediately. Organizing my own event is another accomplishment that I really want to achieve.” TJ loved how Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women in her book, “It is time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table (Sandberg, S., 2013, p.202).”
“We would like to create the spiritual support among peers to encourage and help each other,” TJ told me during the interview. The book Lean In was trying to encourage women to lead in their own lives. The Lean In Circle welcomes female students to communicate with each other, get inspired and grow personally and professionally, with a focus on the international population. According to TJ, “In this circle, people will build their self-confidence and raise awareness about their personal and professional advancement. We hope the group will provide the opportunity for sharing dilemmas and solutions together. It happened just as Sandberg’s quote advocates.
Lean In Circle has launched four events since January 2017. These events, organized monthly, invite guest speakers to share their own stories and difficulties. The guest speakers include alumni, current students, and one of our professors from Northeastern University. The co-founders also believe that the support from peers will be more practical and helpful for their audience. The Lean In Circle is also a perfect platform for young international female professionals to communicate and share their experience. The next sessions will start in Fall 2017. TJ said, “ If we never try, we never know.”
With TJ and Dasom now being alumni and returning to their home country, Zirui (Linda) will take charge to manage and organize the events. Prior to TJ’s return to Thailand, she offered, “Lean In To Grow started from nowhere. Right now we have a clear destination. We hope that new people will absolutely build up this circle to grow it stronger. All new ideas and criticisms will be considered. Furthermore, we are still looking for more volunteers to be part of our team. We just created the social media channel, and we intend to expand more channels to be connected with others. So, we need more people who are interested in being involved.” Feel free to check out our Facebook page, if interested.
Linda will keep working on their dreams in Boston, and TJ will continue her dreams in Thailand. The Lean In Circle will never be dismissed by distance because the fear of the unknown is now gone. Lean In wants everyone who has the same dream to join this circle, to listen, to share, to speak up and to move forward. It is never too late to make a dream come true.
Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead. Random House.
Posted by Meihaba Simayi CPS’17