Step out of your comfort zone


Step out of your comfort zone

David Yang headshot

Zhihan Yang (David) is a third-year international student from China andChair of the UVA Student Council International Student Affairs Committee. In the true Wahoo spirit, he is always trying to hone new skills and also encourages all international students to reach out and do something outside their comfort zone.

Tell us about yourself.

Yang: I grew up in Beijing, China and came to the States for high school in 2014. I spend a year at Blue Ridge School (same as our former men’s basketball player Mamadi Diakite), an all-boy boarding school, before transferring to Miller School of Albemarle, which is only 20 minutes away from UVA. After high school, I spent one year at University of California, Davis before coming back to Charlottesville. I would call Charlottesville my second home.

How did you get interested in joining the international students committee and the student Council?

Yang: I always considered myself a very vocal person. I am double majoring in Foreign Affairs and Sociology, The Student Council is an important part of UVA’s student self-governing tradition. I believed that the Student Council is the organization that can bring real changes to the university and fellow students. So last semester, when I heard the Student Council was launching a new committee specifically focusing on the international student community, I saw it being a great opportunity to help and speak up for more international students like me.

The Student Council just voted and approved the addition of the new international student representative position. This is an important symbol to bring more diversity to the Student Council and it’s a great opportunity for our international students to be involved in UVA’s student self-governing tradition.

Tell us about the programming your committee provided to students who stayed back over the break.

Yang: During the break, my committee worked closely with the International Studies Office to host events for international students who stayed back on Grounds over the break. We hosted trips to Monticello, movie trips to the Paramount Theater, hikes on O’Hill Trail, as well as many Zoom virtual events. We received great feedbacks from our participants and are planning to host similar events in spring when the COVID condition gets better.

One of the key aspects in the planning of these events is safety measures. We had to come up with protocols to ensure the safety and health of our participants. The active communication between the committee and the ISO is also the key to successfully hosting these events. But, the most important component is everyone’s passion in helping our international student community.

How is your Spring semester going?

Yang: My spring semester is going well. With all my classes on Zoom, I’ve found time to play golf, which is one of the few naturally social-distanced sports. I’m also studying for the LSAT, that takes up a lot of my time. I am hoping that I will be able to go back to Beijing this summer to reunite with my family and old friends.

What would be your advice to other international students at UVA?
I would say to not stay in your comfort zone and try some new stuff. Coming to the States to study is an admirable step for all international students. This process can be challenging at times. But when you step out of your comfort zone, you would have an even better experience at UVA. Maybe this means making friends with local students, joining a club, taking an interesting but unfamiliar class, or even trying out some new food.