Senior Yishan Ding reflects on the independence and leadership skills she developed at IU

IU Bloomington senior Yishan Ding has spent three years on the IU Bloomington campus.

During that time, the student from China has grown as a person, experiencing new lands, making new friends and gaining some independence. She’s also made it her mission to help other international students who take the leap to study abroad.

“I had some problems when I first came, so I wanted to help prospective students,” Ding said. “After they come to IU, they might also face these problems, so I want to help them find a solution before they even come here.”

Ding first came to IU Bloomington as a transfer student from China. The finance and technology management major in the IU Kelley School of Business had never traveled abroad before.

Yishan Ding

Yishan Ding during an overseas study trip to London. | Photo courtesy of Yishan Ding.

Besides the logistics of navigating your surroundings in a foreign land, Ding also faced the sometimes difficult task of transiting to a campus where she was a minority.

“International students have a separate orientation,” Ding said. “So during my orientation, I met people from different countries, but not domestic students. When I finally got into classes, it seemed like the domestic students already knew someone and were friends, so I would sit by myself and not engage.”

But Ding, who loves talking with and meeting people, eventually became comfortable enough to speak up, deciding that she would take advantage of all the opportunities IU had to offer. “I at least wanted to try,” she said.

She joined the International Student Ambassador program through the IU Office of International Services. Students in the program come from multiple countries and share their stories of life on the Bloomington campus.

Rachel Salinas, assistant director of international services, met Ding in the fall of 2013 as part of the International Student Ambassador program.

Salinas calls Ding one of the most “reliable and engaged members” of the program, along with one of the funniest. “She brings humor and positive energy to every situation,” Salinas said.

She also praised Ding’s work as student director of membership, alumni and retention for the program, where she manages 40-plus members.

“If you ever have the privilege of meeting Yishan, it will be apparent why she was chosen to represent all international students at Indiana University: She is extremely positive, a natural leader, and passionate about recruiting international students,” Salinas said.

For Ding, being an International Student Ambassador has allowed her not only to spend her college career helping others just like her but to make friends from all over the world.

“That group covers a lot of diversity,” she said. “International students are not only Chinese or Asian, but I’ve met people from Europe, the Middle East. I’ve made a lot of friends.”

Ding also took part in IU2U, a pre-orientation program that helps new students become acclimated to the campus and community before they arrive on campus. As part of the program, Ding traveled to China and Korea. IU2U gave her another opportunity to connect with prospective or incoming international students, Ding said, but it also allowed her to share her own country, on a deeper level, with some of the domestic students on the trip.

Yishan Ding

Yishan Ding, pictured third from the right, during an IU2U trip to Shanghai, China. | Photo courtesy of Yishan Ding.

“I was very proud of introducing them to the places of interest in China,” she said. “The real China is not what they imagined before they actually came there. We exchanged our opinions. I talked to them about what I felt like when I first came to the U.S., and they would tell me what they thought about China when they first went there.”

In addition to traveling to China and Korea, Ding also took part in IU’s Overseas Study program, studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science last summer. At the urging of a friend, Ding also took part in a chorus elective — All-Campus Chorus — during her time at IU, which was not only outside her comfort zone but a lot of fun as well.

“The professor was awesome, very passionate, and she encouraged everyone,” she said. “Didn’t matter your past experience, our nationality. It just made me feel very inclusive.”

Throughout the past three years, Ding said she has developed great leadership skills and confidence through the organizations she’s involved in, her study abroad opportunity and her professors.

“After three years at IU, I’ve learned what leadership involves: personal characteristics, dynamics, how you communicate with others, figuring out your strong points and weaknesses,” she said. “That’s the big difference between me now and me three years ago.”

As graduation day approaches, Ding said she will miss IU. She hopes to one day attend graduate school but would like to take a year to travel and explore.

More senior spotlight videos, created by the provost’s office, are available online.

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