In China, Syracuse is affectionately known as “Snow City.” When a friend introduced Yaqi Kang ’18 to the idea of attending Syracuse University, she was intrigued because she wanted to experience snow. “I had never, ever seen any snow before,” says Kang, who was accustomed to the tropical climate of Quanzhou , her hometown in southeast China.
While Kang trudged through her share of the white stuff—and admittedly didn’t anticipate how frigid Snow City could sometimes be—Syracuse became much more to her than an exercise in weather acclimation. More than anything, she embraced her role as an active representative of the Chinese student community at Syracuse. “In China, there is an old phrase, ‘Everyone is responsible for the community,’” says Kang, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs who majored in international relations and economics with a minor in psychology . “Every student is a part of the community, and we all have the responsibility to make our community better.”
A Voice for International Students
For Kang, that meant getting involved as a way to help improve life for Chinese and other international students on campus. At the Slutzker Center for International Services, she worked as a mentor, providing guidance and advice to new students. “I helped them with balancing their academic work, settling into Syracuse, and introducing them to classes and professors, among other things,” she says.
Kang represented the Chinese community and other international student groups on the Internationalization Council , an initiative under the auspices of the Office of the Provost that seeks to further the international orientation of the University’s programs and priorities, including enhancing relations with the international community, facilitating cross-cultural interaction, and advancing cultural understanding.
I had the courage, I had the channel, and I wanted to contribute, so I just did.
She also served as president of the China Development Student Think Tank (CDSTT). “I joined this think tank because I could communicate with other students about current affairs,” she says. “We facilitated academic and scholarly communication between China and the U.S. by providing forums, seminars, and research regarding China’s political-economic reforms, U.S.-Sino relations, and Asian Pacific sustainable development.” The CDSTT also hosts an annual community service event called “Chinese Voice Out,” designed to help Chinese students improve communications with the University and address such issues as safety and employment, she says.
Giving international students a voice was important to Kang and she saw her role as a liaison, a problem-solver who could interact with University administrators, communicate concerns, and exchange ideas for improvements. Some students, she says, are hesitant to speak out publicly, don’t have the proper communication channels, or simply don’t want to negotiate over issues. “I understood all this,” she says. “But I had the courage, I had the channel, and I wanted to contribute, so I just did.”
Kang continues to pursue a similar path of communication. Following graduation, she returned to China and now works in Shanghai as an editor for a Chinese media company. “I try to provide another way of thinking for my readers on current affairs,” she says.
When Kang reflects on her academic experience at Syracuse, she cites the idea of learning to approach issues from different viewpoints and remembers writing papers, including one for her introductory international relations class that required focusing on the conflict over Iran’s nuclear capabilities from Iran’s point of view. She also enjoyed a course on African politics that introduced her to African literature and understanding the continent’s history from the African perspective. She believes it’s important for students to think carefully about who they are and what they want to take away from the University and suggests exploring the city and campus. “Don’t hesitate to try new things, even by yourself,” Kang says. “I know a lot of students are afraid to leave their comfort zone. Walking on a new path by yourself is not an easy thing, but you may like it and discover something really different.”