International Student Spotlight: Meet Yikai Zhao

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Three photos Rutgers international student Yikai Zhao
Wednesday, June 19th

Rutgers University is proud to welcome more than 7,000 international students from around the world to our campuses each year. Rutgers Global’s International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) team supports our international community by providing services and enriching experiences from their arrival to Rutgers to graduation and beyond. Some of our international students choose to become Orientation Leaders (OLs) at our International Student Orientation events, held in the fall and spring. These OLs volunteer their time and energy to ensure that new international students arriving to Rutgers feel welcomed and prepared to start their academic journey at Rutgers. Here is one of our OLs, Yikai Zhao from Shanghai, China, who is at currently at Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick and will share a bit about his journey to Rutgers along with some of his favorite things.

Why did you choose to come to Rutgers?
I chose to come to Rutgers because it was the first university to give me an offer of enrollment and one of my favorites. Rutgers was also the one school, in particular, that I wanted to try because I'd been living in California for my high school years and wanted to take the opportunity to study and live in a different environment and meet new people.

What are you studying at Rutgers? 
I still haven't chosen my major yet. I am currently a rising sophomore and will aim to choose my major before the end of the 2025 Spring semester. I am interested in the Marketing and Business Analytics and Information Technology (BAIT) major and also want to minor in Japanese or Human Resource Management.

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?
My favorite place on Rutgers-New Brunswick campus is the James Dickson Carr Library. Also, the Livingston campus is my main campus for Rutgers Business School, and I enjoyed the vibe there. My favorite on-campus restaurant Hoja is also on Livingston. I usually go there for lunch after class.

What is the thing that surprised you most when you came to Rutgers?
To be honest, the thing that surprised me the most when I came to Rutgers was that I saw Rutgers go straight up 15 spots in the rankings and become the #15 public school in the country. I was very happy about that.

What is your favorite restaurant in the area and why?
I have so many favorite restaurants in this area that I can't give a definitive answer. First of all, I live in downtown New Brunswick and there are so many restaurants with food from different countries, such as tacos from Mexico, noodles from China, sushi and ramen from Japan, and bagels from America. Also, there are a lot of good restaurants in Edison, especially H Mart and 99 Ranch Plaza, which I enjoy a lot.

What do you do when you are not studying? 
When I am not studying, I hang out with my friends and ask them if they want to go out and have some food together. I also watch movies by myself in my room or invite my friends to my house to cook food together. Overall, I enjoy time with my friends.

Why did you decide to become an Orientation Leader?
The reason is because I want to help people, especially people who are coming to the U.S. for the first time. As an international student, I have already studied in the U.S. for five years and understand it is hard at the beginning because there are no family member or friends nearby to help. I felt lucky when I first came here for high school because I met a very nice and friendly family, and they took good care of me—they treated me like their own child. Even during my first year at Rutgers, I still connected with them a lot. I remember how much they helped me and how they took care of me for four years, helping me understand and get familiar with a lot of skills and ways of living in the United States. I want to help new students at Rutgers like they helped me. I want to help others because I’m grateful for the help I received. 

What advice would you give to a new international student at Rutgers?
The advice I would give is not to feel sad, especially at first. We know it is hard to travel from your home country thousands of miles away but you are a strong person. You should be proud of yourself. Let's get together and make our lives better and better. And welcome to our school, my new friends!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
By then, I plan to finish my double major at Rutgers and graduate successfully. If I can, I'd like to go to graduate school at Cornell, Stanford, or Columbia. And I'd like to find some internships during the summers during the next four years.

Learn more about International Student Orientation, coming up on August 26-28. 2024.
Learn more about becoming an Orientation Leader.