Origin Stories: Students Share Defining Moments That Shaped Their Lives

The moments that define us–sometimes abrupt, sometimes devastating, sometimes unexpected and wonderful–also define our community. The life experiences and cultural heritage of our students enrich our campus, and challenge and change the way we see the world.

We invited students to share their origin stories and the moments that have helped define who they are and where they are going. All of the students offer perspectives shaped by circumstance and unbound by place.

Yangzi Jiang '19

Born in Tianjin, China, moved to nearby Beijing for medical treatment at 14, followed by two months at M.D. Anderson in Houston, then Philadelphia through high school.

When I was 14, I was in pain every time I was running or playing soccer. Doctors found a tumor in my leg. They thought it was benign at first, then I had chemotherapy. Yes, I lost all my hair. My parents kept asking around for doctors. They sacrificed a lot for me. We went from Tianjin to Beijing, then to Houston and Philadelphia.

Defining Moment

In Houston and in Philadelphia, we stayed at Ronald MacDonald House. Being in the place where people share the same struggle can help. It's nice to know you're not the only one. Doctors said amputation is probably the safest choice. My tumor was in the ankle and the end of my tibia. To put it shortly, it was not an easy adjustment. Now I just don't pay attention to the limitation. I had my five-year bloodwork checkup and I'm cancer-free. I'm going to be a trip leader with Davidson Outdoors Summer Odyssey. When you're doing those trips, you can connect with people much better. It's the same theory as Ronald MacDonald House. When people face challenges together, they can be genuinely happy about a struggle.

Jiang, a computer science and economics double major, has secured an internship in data analysis this summer, and will be a trip leader on session three of Davidson Outdoors Summer Odyssey.

Lisa Patterson


John Syme



  • July 5, 2017