SIGS Graduate Story | Xi Jingyang: Building bridges across cultures

Xi Jingyang’20, Canadian, TBSI Master's in management science and engineering. Under the guidance of Prof. Wai Kin (Victor) Chan, Xi's research focuses on disaster management, and has also recently received a PhD offer from TBSI. With the intention of bridging students from different cultures, he founded iShare, a cultural exchange program for international students. 


Bridging different cultures

Q: What makes you so fascinated with organizing activities? How do you balance this with your own research?

Xi: Back in my undergraduate years, I was already active in organizing student activities. Shortly after I started studying at TBSI, a teacher asked me if I was interested in international student affairs. I was honored to be elected as Vice President of the Graduate Student Union. Organizing activities has sharpened my skills in many ways and brought me a great sense of accomplishment. Besides, I was able to make friends from all parts of the world.

In 2018, I organized and led a group of international student scholars on a trip to Beijing for the John Ma Cup during Tsinghua's anniversary celebration. A lot of students, including myself, had never been to Tsinghua's main campus. It was a fantastic experience and filled us with pride. The trip also gave us a better understanding of China's culture and history.


Xi Jingyang (back row, second from left) and the SIGS group visiting Schwarzman College at Tsinghua


Research in disaster management

Q: You are about to start a PhD program at TBSI. What are your future plans?

Xi: My research direction, disaster management, is a branch of management science and engineering. There are different countermeasures in three different stages of a disaster: prevention, response and reconstruction.  

My research is about disaster response, which means I design and test computerized simulation models that tell us what it is like when disasters happen. Such models help optimize response plans and provide constructive suggestions on how to handle disasters better. I hope my research findings will improve disaster response to serve the public and make contributions to the country.


Advice: Make full use of interdisciplinary courses

Q: What prompted you to choose TBSI and continue to pursue your PhD here? What advice do you have for future graduates?

Xi: I found it very novel that UC Berkeley and Tsinghua had joined hands to establish TBSI, and since I had plans to develop a career in China, I decided to enroll in TBSI. During my master's, my priority was to study China's disaster and emergency management by using computerized simulation models. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 made me realize that I should press ahead with my research, and so I decided to stay at TBSI for a PhD.

Since TBSI sets up many interdisciplinary courses, I suggest future graduates to get to know different research areas, and find out what really interests and suits them best. Taking part in extracurricular activities also helps one develop skills and connections with excellent students in the same age group. 

An engineering student, designer, and singer

 Q: Pick an adjective to describe yourself.

Xi: I would describe myself as "creative". I always look for new methods to do things that appear ordinary to others. I have previously designed booklets and posters for TBSI's cultural exchange activities, and enjoy using art to express myself.


Xi Jingyang's designs


Q: In 2019, you made it all the way to the finals of Tsinghua's Annual Singing Competition. Tell us about your story with music.

Xi: Singing is my hobby. When I first came to TBSI, I learned about “The Voice” at Tsinghua University, a grand event held in a stadium big enough to accommodate over one thousand people. The competition includes four elimination rounds, and I made it to the finals. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience and I look forward to returning to that stage.


Xi Jingyang onstage at the finals of “The Voice”


A more international and open Tsinghua SIGS

Q: In which aspects do you think TBSI has done well?

Xi: A higher level of internationalization is definitely a highlight. More and more international students are joining our big family, and cultural exchange activities such as traditional holiday celebrations and the Mentor Partnership Program are increasing. 

I hope the school can invite more local and foreign teachers to participate in such activities, to make both Tsinghua SIGS and TBSI more international and open.


Xi Jingyang (first on left) at the Global Competence Youth Event






Photos provided by interviewee

Edited by Fei, Karen