An Ed­u­cated Guess

An­gela Cheng-mat­suzawa, co-founder of Punch Detox, is no stranger to new chal­lenges. She tells Kate Springer how, dur­ing her for­ma­tive years, she tran­si­tioned through four schools in three coun­tries, adapt­ing at ev­ery turn

Hong Kong Tatler - - Schools Guide | Last Word -

row­ing up, An­gela Cheng-mat­suzawa’s par­ents re­ally knew how to keep her guess­ing. She moved be­tween four schools and three coun­tries in 10 years—mak­ing new friends and tack­ling di­verse cur­ric­ula along the way. The co-founder of cold-pressed juice brand Punch Detox and Har­vard Busi­ness School grad­u­ate col­lected life lessons at ev­ery stop.

Af­ter spend­ing her early years at Mary­mount Pri­mary, a lo­cal Chi­nese school, Cheng-mat­suzawa faced a rocky start at Ger­man Swiss In­ter­na­tional School (GSIS), also in Hong Kong. “Lit­er­ally, for the first three months, I didn’t un­der­stand any­thing be­cause the lan­guage gap was that big. Some things are bet­ter taught in English, like chem­istry, but man, the times ta­bles. Can­tonese all the way!”

Af­ter a dizzy­ing first few months, Cheng­mat­suzawa says that GSIS ac­tu­ally ended up be­ing a great fit. The cur­ricu­lum granted her more free­dom and cre­ative out­let and armed her with crit­i­cal think­ing skills. The best part? There was no uni­form to but­ton up ev­ery morn­ing.

In 1989, with many Chi­nese and Hong Kong fam­i­lies em­i­grat­ing abroad, Cheng­mat­suzawa found her­self at Ascham School for girls in Syd­ney. As if high school wasn’t hard enough al­ready, Cheng-mat­suzawa was back in an itchy uni­form—com­plete with tie, blazer and a house badge. En­ter­ing Year 8, she found it hard to make friends and felt self-con­scious about her race. “There were very few Chi­nese stu­dents in that school and the head­mistress liked to keep us to­gether. Frankly, I felt a bit seg­re­gated.”

So­cial draw­backs aside, Cheng-mat­suzawa has fond mem­o­ries of the sci­ence teach­ers at Ascham School. “They had a strong pro­gramme for en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies; I still re­mem­ber things taught by my sci­ence teach­ers.” Other cru­cial lessons learned in­clude: how to bal­ance her work­load, de­velop or­gan­i­sa­tional skills, and camp like a champ. “I went to the com­pul­sory Out­ward Bound course. It was far from glamp­ing. No show­ers. No heaters. We had to swim in the river,” she re­mem­bers. “There were a lot of cry­ing girls, but it was an amaz­ing chance to test your­self and see what you’re made of.”

When her grand­fa­ther fell ill, Cheng-mat­suzawa moved back to Hong Kong and re-en­rolled at GSIS. Just over a year later, she was off again—to the US, where she fin­ished high school at Phillips Academy, an in­de­pen­dent board­ing school in An­dover, Mas­sachusetts. “Phillips Academy was an­other an­i­mal. There were over 140 dif­fer­ent stu­dent clubs there and this doesn’t even count their sports, mu­sic and the­atre pro­grammes,” she re­calls. “I was like a lit­tle girl in a candy store. Ex­cept the lit­tle girl was 16 and the store sold classes!”

Sur­rounded by op­por­tu­ni­ties, Cheng-mat­suzawa thrived, even man­ag­ing to emerge un­scathed from the blus­tery New Eng­land win­ters and cramped dorms. “My favourite thing about Phillips Academy was that they let us be in­de­pen­dent and ex­plore our own in­ter­ests.” The ap­proach paid off for most of the stu­dents, in­clud­ing Cheng-mat­suzawa. “I look at my friends from there and a lot of them be­came what they wanted to be— peo­ple’s dreams came true.”

Cheng-mat­suzawa’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and ed­u­ca­tion took her far as well—the en­tre­pre­neur moved on to the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia and later to Har­vard Busi­ness School. “Learn­ing to make friends and be adapt­able proved to be ex­tremely use­ful at work and in life. But it’s im­por­tant not to lose your­self in the quest to as­sim­i­late. Be­cause my ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence was so di­verse, it al­lowed me to see dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and learn from dif­fer­ent peo­ple, so much that I know that there isn’t one ver­sion of suc­cess. As long as you are con­fi­dent and you know who you are, then you can thrive.”

Re­turn­ing to Hong Kong in 2005 was yet an­other kind of cul­ture shock, but Cheng-mat­suzawa came back to her home­town ready for any­thing—be­com­ing a wife, mother of twin boys, and busi­ness owner.

“I think you can be a fem­i­nist as well as a stay-at-home mom. An athe­ist and a phi­lan­thropist at the same time. A wine lover and a yoga teacher. As long as you know who you are as a whole, you can de­cide what the world sees and when. And the rest of the time—just keep them guess­ing.”

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