Another Home Not Far Away
Jean Yu is the owner of Chopstick Express Szechuan restaurant in downtown State College.
Yu grew up in a small town in Sichuan Province, China. She moved to the United States in 1991 to be with her husband, who was pursuing his PhD degree in Arizona.
Chopstick Express is popular among Chinese international students at Penn State because of its authentic Chinese cuisine. Yu and her partner Jin Zhou opened the restaurant 20 years ago at 134 E College Ave. Yu became sole owner in September.
Chopstick Express is popular not only because of its food but also because of Yu's warm personality. She greets everyone with smile and knows most of her custormers by name. Many Chinese students sees her as a mother figure while they are here in the states.
Chopstick Express also draws American foodies. Penn State professor Natascha Hoffmeyer created a Facebook group called "Chilli Heads at State College" and arranges group outings to Chopstick Express. Penn State professor Dr. Mary Beth Oliver said she considered Yu to be one of her closest friends. The two often talk about their families, travel and makeup.
"She is one of the best people I know." Dr. Oliver said.
Another loyal member of the Chilli Heads, Penn State Professor Mathew Mcallister, said, "We look forward to seeing her as much as we look forward to eating the food there."
Video: A stranger in a new land
When Yu arrived in Phoenix 25 years ago, she said everything seemed new and scary. So she understands what it's like for Chinese students attending Penn State. She says students talk to her about variety of things including academic life, leisure activities and family.
Sometimes their stories bring her to tears. “It’s not easy to be this sensitive like myself,” Yu said.