Parent and Family Spotlight: Laura Zhu and JJ Zhang

Laura Zhu and JJ Zhang and their family

Name(s): Laura Zhu and JJ Zhang
Student: Isabelle Zhang
Class Year: 2026
Hometown: Foster City, California

How do you connect with your student?

We stay connected through a number of ways. We have a family chat text group where there are daily exchanges of text messages. We often share pictures/videos of our family dog, Momo, over text. [Isabelle] sometimes shares photos/videos of her surroundings and the things she is doing with her friends, etc., such as the recent photos [of] Springfest. We also have a weekly Zoom call to catch up. Finally, Isabelle invited both of us to join her on BeReal, a social app that allows users to share a snapshot of their life at the moment of receiving a prompt. Only friends can see the postings, and we have only one friend, Isabelle.

What resources have been helpful to you in supporting your student?

We have found it very helpful to be well informed [about] what’s happening on campus. This, in turn, helps us in supporting our daughter. There are a couple of resources we find useful. The FYI weekly newsletter helps us stay updated on the current affairs and upcoming events on campus. We have at times brought to our daughter’s attention some of the events we feel would be helpful for her. The CWRU Parents Chat [Facebook] group is also a very good resource, covering a variety of topics, and a place to find real-time help from the CWRU community.

How do you support your student while they are on campus?

Given the distance and time zone difference, it certainly adds challenge to any support system from us. However, fortunately, there is modern technology. We believe communication is the foundation for supporting her. Via the myriad ways of communication, we always aim to make sure that she balances study and everything else, such as healthy eating, exercise, and sleep.

We also encourage her to practice prioritization and effective time management.

What were you pleasantly surprised about this past semester?

She has grown more confident and become more comfortable taking on leadership roles. She took on the role of Director of Membership at the Society for Women Engineers (SWE) @ CWRU at the beginning of the past semester. She worked on organizing and moderating panels comprising of women engineers from various local tech companies. She was also active in helping attract prospective students – becoming a campus tour guide and serving on a virtual student panel for admitted students from California.

What is your favorite part of Cleveland or CWRU?

University Circle is a great place that packs learning amid culture and nature. I (the Mom) am a marathon runner. Every time during our visit to school, I would do at least one morning run around and about University Circle. I still remember on my first run in April 2022 the moment when I encountered the beautiful cherry blossoms along the Wade Lagoon with the Cleveland Museum of Art overlooking it and the Severance Hall on the side. It was magical.

What advice do you have for parents about staying connected to CWRU?

There are several ways parents can get engaged with the University. The FYI newsletter mentioned before provides a pair of lenses through which parents can get a glimpse of the campus life and feel connected. CWRU organizes a series of alumni events throughout the country, which would offer a good venue to get engaged with the community. We attended such an event in April in the San Francisco bay area, and it was great to meet fellow parents, alumni and the Kalers. Supporting a particular cause or organization within the University is also a way to feel connected. In our case, for instance, we participated in this year’s Giving Day to support one of the student organizations our daughter is passionate about, which made us feel closer to both our daughter and the school.

How have you seen your student grow while at CWRU?

It was not without apprehension that we shipped Isabelle to CWRU, given that she was born and raised as a Californian. We have witnessed tremendous growth over her freshman year.

She has morphed from someone who needed to text for tips on how to separate laundry to someone who confidently took care of move-out all by herself. She successfully adapted and survived her first Cleveland winter and found delight in snow (she shared with us a picture of the snowman she and her friends made). She has found her people and forged new friendships. She excelled academically and made the Dean’s High Honor List. She has also found her favorite clubs and activities. She wholeheartedly embraced her college life and has emerged more mature than the 18-year-old who went in.