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International Student Advisory Board AY 2014-2015

Zan Gilani, Co-Chair

Picture Zan Gilani

My name is Zan Gilani and I'm a senior in CC double majoring in Political Science and East Asian Studies. I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, but during the holidays, I fly back to London where I was born and where my family lives now. Outside the classroom, I'm passionate about international development, football (soccer), juggling, and origami.

Over the last 4 years, being an international student has been a large part of my identity here at Columbia. I decided to join ISAB because I wanted the chance to help shape the international student experience for the better, and give international students a voice on campus where they haven’t had one before.

Suzie Kim, Co-Chair

Picture Suzie Kim

I am a junior at Columbia College majoring in Psychology and concentrating in Business and East Asian Studies. I am from Seoul, South Korea and my first language is Korean. The most favorite thing that I love to do in New York is eating delicious desserts. I have a very bad sweet tooth, so apart from frequently going to Insomnia Cookies and Hungarian Pastry at Morningside Heights, I often go downtown with my friends to hunt for desserts! I am also passionate in photography and videography. Currently, I am the photographer for Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) blog, Impulse. Our blog covers interesting news related to startups and entrepreneurships, so check it out!

         The reason I decided to join ISAB was to become a supportive advisor and an encouraging friend for other international students who are facing diverse challenges. When I first came to the United States, I remember feeling lost as I tried to adjust to a drastically different culture. I believe other international students struggle with similar problems. With the strategies and tips I acquired through my own experiences, I want other students to successfully and quickly adjust to the community at Columbia. After studying abroad in China this summer, I also realized the importance of intercultural learning. As a peer advisor for Office of Global Programs and a member of ISAB I am eager to actively promote cross-cultural learning amongst. I am most excited to help organize awesome activities and social events for students throughout the year. Overall, I am confident that ISAB would become an active voice, a responsible and trustworthy student body for international students at Columbia.

Ben Coombs

Picture Ben Coombs

My name is Ben Coombs. I am a British-American Sophomore, and I have lived in London for my whole life. I am in the College, majoring in Economics-Mathematics, while also being a Resident Advisor in Carman and a firm member of the Columbia University Rugby Club. I am a huge fan of music, particularly jazz and EDM, and also Milano’s sandwiches.

I chose to join the ISAB most particularly because I wanted a way to make the transition to Columbia smoother for the hundreds of students who experience the greatest shock and culture clash when they arrive. I have loved Columbia but I want to aid the faculty in adapting to the needs specific to international students, so that eventually we might be in the position that international students no longer feel overwhelmed by the differences between their home and here, and can concentrate on being overwhelmed by everything else like the other first years.

I also want to create a stronger relationship between the faculty and the international students, who are often underrepresented in extracurricular student-faculty advisory positions such as student council, and help to form a relationship with the Columbia administration such that international students are able to voice their issues and needs in a way that they are the forefront of attention at any given moment.

Finally, the ISAB’s infancy as an entity allows for a huge breadth of possibilities for its purpose. Since there is no precedent of behavior or set purpose it is entirely adaptable as a concept to what we as international students need and want it to be, which I think is a rare phenomenon and might be incredibly interesting to be a part of.

Shreya Dhittal

Picture Shreya Dhittal

Namaste! I am Shreya Dhital from Kathmandu, Nepal, and my mother-tongue is Nepal. I am a sophomore in Columbia College. I love dancing and art; traveling, exploring New York, especially Harlem, and trying new food. I decided to join ISAB  because being an international student and having grown up in Kathmandu, I found myself in a completely new environment in Columbia and New York in general. For a city and a college that prides itself in diversity, I think we still have a lot of work to do in creating an environment of solidarity and make an effort to celebrate our differences- currently the atmosphere can make one hyper-aware of race and ethnic division. I wanted to be a part of a group that provides a sense of community to international students, where we can foster a family and a true source of support for those who are far away from home.

Varun Hegde

Picture Varun Hegde

My name is Varun Hegde - I am a sophomore in SEAS majoring in Chemical Engineering along with the pre-med track. I am from Mumbai, India and speak English and Hindi (the national language of my country). I am passionate about RealityStep - a non-profit startup at Columbia that works to give every high school student a path to higher education. My interests range from swimming, karate, and fencing to enjoying the great culinary wonders of New York City.

As an International student I have been greeted by a welcoming community here at Columbia. The constantly warm atmosphere that has surrounded me has made me feel so accepted. As a member of ISAB I want to make sure that this community continues to help international students to the point that they can call Columbia home. I wish to build on this atmosphere and help international students share their culture and express themselves in ways they haven't before.

Raye Li

Picture Raye Li

This is Raye Li from Beijing, China. I’m a native Mandarin speaker, but I’m also fluent in English and Japanese. I’m currently a freshman at Columbia College, studying three Cores, Cal 3, and scuba diving. I’m a huge fan of history and literature, and I’m also fascinated by the economic trends of the market. I love traveling, whether it is a one-month trip to a tropical paradise or an excursion downtown. Wherever I go, I like carrying my camera to record precious moments.

I decided to join ISAB since I’ve learned so much from intercultural experience, and I’d love to become a part of the process which promotes understanding between various cultures. I also hope to become the mouthpiece for international students and address their specific concerns. I believe ISAB will be an exciting and inspiring experience!

Shermin Luo

Picture Shermin Luo

My name is Shermin and I am a junior in SEAS studying Engineering Management System with minors in psychology and entrepreneurship. I was originally from Hangzhou, China and later moved to the states for high school. As someone who is passionate about intercultural learning, I have backpack travelled around North America, Asia and Europe; worked and studied in United Kingdom, United States, Italy and China. I am working on my second book inspired by people I met around the world! I also have extensive experience in working with non-profit organization and startups. Prior to joining ISAB, I co-founded Global Youth Mentorship Initiative and two fashion/apperal companies. I strive to help provide a more friendly environment to international students not only on campus, but also on a greater scale. I have had so much trouble with job hunting, filing my companies in US because I am an international student. As a member of ISAB, I will speak from my own experience and help create a better support system for international students.   

Polina Porotskaya

Picture Polina Porotskaya

My name is Polina Porotskaya and I am thrilled to be on the ISAB board for the school year 2014-2015. I was born in Moscow, Russia and lived there until moving to Latvia at the age of 13 and finally New York City!

I am currently a junior in Columbia College, studying Neuroscience and Behavior. My field of study has a lot to do with questions of nature vs. nurture – how does our environment affect the choices we make and the people we ultimately become? I strive to address the questions of how to ensure that the differences in our cultural backgrounds will create a more diverse and enriching environment? As an international student who has never visited the US before starting university I found myself in a position where some of the most expected norms of the American culture were completely foreign to me.

I have come a long way since freshman year when I tried to be everything and everywhere all the time. I have since realized that I should have avoided trying to convince myself that moving to the States was not a huge transition and instead taken more time to reflect on the changes. I hope that my insight and experience can be useful to ISAB preparing and supporting international students throughout the great adventure that is their undergraduate experience!

Karan Vaidya

Picture Karan Vaidya

My name is Karan Vaidya and I am a junior at CC studying History with a concentration in Business.  I come from Mumbai, India and speak a variety of different languages that include English, Hindi, Spanish and Gujarati. One of my passions is travel because I love exploring new places and cultures. Another thing I am crazy about is watching and playing different sports like cricket, football and squash. I am a die-hard Football Club Barcelona fan and never miss any game! I joined ISAB because I believe that it is a really exciting opportunity to help foster a supportive and accommodating international community at Columbia. 

Alexandra White

Picture Alexandra White

I am a sophomore in CC, majoring in Biology. I grew up in a Russian-American family mostly in Moscow, Russia, but I was born in Boston, MA, and also spent time in Ann Arbor, MI as a young child. I’m a native speaker of Russian and English. I came to America for college because I wanted to explore the other culture I belong to, and I love Columbia and New York City because I have the privilege to interact with people from completely different worlds. I also want to pursue medicine but explore other things first, and Columbia lets me do that. This is why I get excited about everything from reading Anna Karenina with 700 Russians in a Google marathon to baking the perfect cookies to working with mice in a biomedical lab. I love biology, literature, dance, theater, and medicine. I also greatly enjoy discussing the way our culture and upbringing influence the way we see the world. I have always been interested in how different cultures clashed and melded together, and how that process has intensified in the last century.  As a bicultural person, I constantly find myself presenting one of the cultures I belong to the other, and I would love to help other Columbians do the same, which is one of the reasons I decided to join ISAB. I also want to help international students adjust to Columbia and actively participate in cross-cultural dialogue and the discussion of political and social issues both in the United States and around the world.

Yang Xiong

Picture Yang Ziong

I am Yang from China. I am a sophomore in College planning to double major in EALAC and Political science and minor in Linguistics. I speak Mandarin Chinese, French and Japanese. I enjoy traveling, eager to experience different cultural practices and listen to people speaking languages that i cannot understand. As a huge foodie, I enjoy going on food excursions or simply strolling around in the city. Also, I am a big tennis fan. Joining the ISAB, I wish to increase the voice of international students and promote intercultural exchange on campus.

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