Spotlight on an Alum
Meet First Tiger Jane Yang '11!
Jane Yang ’11 grew up in Michigan, bouncing between three different public school districts in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Her parents immigrated to the United States during the Cultural Revolution in China, when famine shut down the education system and derailed her father’s graduate studies.
College was always a given for Jane and her older sister. Both of her parents were college-educated and placed value in their children’s education. While the Yangs knew of the University of Michigan, they knew little else of the American school system or that admissions offices looked at anything besides a student’s grades. In fact, it was Jane’s sister who first heard of the Ivy League and encouraged Jane to apply to the Questbridge Scholars program. Questbridge offered the Yang girls a glimpse of the world of universities beyond their hometown university.
Jane considers herself fortunate to have had her sister blaze the trail of college admissions before her since she could learn from her sister’s experiences. Since she would not have the opportunity to visit any campuses before applying, Jane learned to be proactive in researching schools and applying for various scholarships. She eventually chose Princeton after her feeling at home with the people, the culture, and the size of campus during Princeton Preview.
Upon arriving on campus, Jane focused exclusively on her coursework. Even so, she struggled in her first semester: “I thought I was in way over my head.” She entertained thoughts of transferring throughout the first few months, and by the end of the semester she assumed she would leave at the end of the year.
That’s when things changed: “I thought, ‘You know what? Let me make the best of this and at least get involved while I’m here.’” And that’s exactly what she did. Jane joined Princeton Engineering Education for Kids (PEEK), where she taught elementary students basic engineering principles. She became a Writing Center Fellow and participated in Engineers Without Borders. She became involved in the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. As she spread her roots through the Princeton community, she grew happier and her grades improved. By junior year, she realized that her education was not limited to the classroom: “I knew I wasn’t going to be a chemical engineer. What I really majored in at Princeton was social impact. It was in my extracurricular involvement that I found myself creating the most value.”
Her fantastic summer experiences with Princeton in Beijing and Engineers Without Borders in Ghana made for a difficult decision come senior year. Soon after she received an offer from Deloitte, Jane learned she had received a Princeton in Africa Fellowship, which was her preferred post-graduate plan. She convinced Deloitte to defer her offer for a year, speaking with the company candidly about the fellowship opportunity and highlighting the valuable skills that Princeton in Africa would help her cultivate. After the fellowship ended, Jane spent two years with Deloitte before returning to Kenya. Today, she is involved with implementation consulting for a sustainable farming initiative.
Throughout her undergraduate career, Jane was mindful and appreciative of the independence she found at Princeton, from making decisions about her coursework to cooking her own meals. It was a refreshing change of pace from her life at home. With time, she has also come to appreciate the way Princeton inspired a confidence within her and sharpened many skills unbeknownst to her at the time: “I’m unafraid of expressing my own opinion, which is directly related to speaking in precept. I know how to show up to black-tie events and conduct myself with poise. Most of all, I know how to say I don’t know and I’m ok with saying that because it will only accelerate my learning.”
Though she sees many ways Princeton helped her grow, when asked what she sees as the most important lesson she learned at Princeton, the answer is clear: “College was a time I learned not just how to study, but how to learn.”
Looking back on her education experience, Jane emphasizes the importance of asking for help from more experienced individuals, be they professors, deans, mentors, or even friends. “I was lucky in that I learned from my sister, but I was also pretty clueless. I just happened to stumble upon Princeton, and thank god I did.” Whether your search is for jobs, fellowships, or graduate school, it can only help to cover your bases and speak to those who have been in your shoes, or else can connect you with someone who has.
At A Glance: Jane Yang ‘11
Major: Chemical Engineering (emphases on Sustainable Energy and Engineering Biology)
If you could change one thing about Princeton what would it be? Why?
“Princeton has so many resources for students to change humanity for the better. But I remember walking through career fairs and feeling a disconnect between our mission and what is available to students. I think Princeton could make those resources more visible to the student body, especially by exposing them to more internships, jobs, and careers in social impact roles.”
If you could be any building on campus which would you be and why?
“It’s not the classroom where great ideas are generated, but places like Frist; those spaces where people would relax or come together for extracurriculars or break into heated debates. There people from all over campus mixed. For me, it wasn’t in class but in social interactions that I engaged with other most thoughtfully and in a way that I could develop organically and not in a deliberate fashion. I think that led to a really important skill set for my life.”
You can contact Jane at email@example.com