They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
“So there was one day that I went onto this website and started looking for college pictures. And then this really beautiful picture of Kirkland just showed up on my laptop screen. And I was like this is amazing! I need to apply! I just started looking up more information about Vanderbilt University and I just knew that this was my fit.”
That's when international student Cici Xuning Zhang started her journey from Beijing, China to Nashville and Vanderbilt.
“The diversity here all of the different opportunities on campus just really made me feel like I'm at the right place,” said Zhang.
She’s now sharing the Vanderbilt experience online with people in China by working with the Vanderbilt Admissions office. Zhang and a group of other Chinese students manage the pictures and posts that go on China’s social media networks.
“What I do is that I find posts and try to cater those post to the taste of international communities. It's just so fun engaging with you know the community online.”
But it takes more than a snap.
“I think a lot of American students don't know Facebook YouTube and Snap chat all the social media platforms are blocked in China.”
Mixing creativity and culture, like honoring China’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
“It’s kind of like the Thanksgiving here in the United States,” said Zhang. “So I took a picture of the moon and posted on the Web site and a lot of people liked it. Having that post out there for them to see really means a lot to a lot of the students here because they know that Vanderbilt is their home and that Vanderbilt really cares about them.”
Cici is majoring in child development, with minors in quantitative methods and human and organizational development.
“I chose child development because I really love children. I also love psychology and education. So child development is kind of like the combination of those three aspects of what I love.”
Cici has been doing research in the Vanderbilt Infant Learning Lab since her freshman year.
“She started working in my lab right away. She’s just been doing amazing work in our lab ever since,” said professor of psychology and human development Amy Needham.
“I'm currently working on an honors thesis. It's a cross-cultural study on investigating the different parenting styles and how that affect baby's Motor development,” said Zhang.
The idea of comparing American and Chinese babies led to an immersion project back in China.
“She went back home to Beijing and she, on her own, forged this connection with a research lab in Beijing Normal University and she was collecting data with Chinese babies in Beijing for almost the whole summer,” said Needham. “I mean what an ambitious young woman and what a great idea that she had.”
Giving her a big step ahead.
“And I am quite sure that the data Cici has collected will be publishable. She will go into her graduate work with a publication under her belt and that really does set students apart from other applicants,” added Needhman.
Now she’s helping more Chinese students have an experience like hers.
“When I first came as a freshman there were only 25 or 30 international students from China. And then this year I worked as an international student orientation leader and then there were more than 70 international students from China. So we've seen an increase in the number of international students from China over the years,” said Zhang.
One picture at a time.
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