Thursday, September 14

What I Learned As A Student Senator

International Food & Trivia Night @ Teachers College, Columbia University

When I was elected as the International Student Senator, I promised to:
  • improve the way that international students are included & engaged with at TC;
  • become accepted & empowered members of our new community
  • connect international students with local students, unique experiences in NYC, & awesome food places, as well as give back to the gem right under our noses, Harlem;
  • ensure that none of us to come to TC & leave as the same person; and
  • make our time here as enriching as possible.
Additionally, as a Malaysian, I felt the calling to also share my largely unknown country's colorful culture & food. As the 2016-17 International Student Senator, I set out to support international students, & bridge internationals & their US peers, while promoting Malaysian culture at TC.


Here's what I think helped me excel as a senator!


1. I created a mouthpiece where my constituents could reach me.


I needed mouthpiece to reach my constituents. I didn't want to mass email everybody as I never read those emails myself... so I decided on a Facebook group & called it #InternationalTC because I believe that everyone at TC is a global citizen & inherently international. Eventually, it evolved into a place for people to go to learn about current events, free food, as well as tips for life at TC & NYC. Now, it's managed by the current International Student Senator.

Here's how I described the group:
"This is a group for the international students & friends of international students at Teachers College to meet, share, & support each other. Let this is be a supportive environment for us to be ourselves, ask, share, & stand on each other's shoulders.

I, Jarod Yong, am your International Student Senator & admin of this group. Feel free to reach out to me privately with any concerns you may have. If you would like me to bring something to the student senate on your behalf, you can either PM me directly or use this cool survey I made.

As international students, much is new to us: the education system, the social dynamics, the culture, the food, the language, and, oh God, the super-sized rats. We're not asking to be coddled like little children. All that we ask is for an opportunity to shine & to share with you the wonders that we have brought with us from miles and miles away. We ask to be included. We ask to be seen. We are TC, too.

I am always looking to support student initiatives & work together with you to enhance the experience of everyone at TC. Message me about anything! Don't forget to invite your friends at TC to this group!"

2. I focused on what was close to my heart &, unexpectantly, left a legacy.

  • After constant annoyances with the printing quota, I spearheaded an initiative to improve printing services at TC by getting the college to run a semester-based quota (500 pages/semester) instead of the weekly quota (20 pages/week) for printing. After countless meetings, round tables, dialogues & a poll, I drafted the Resolution of Teachers College Student Senate on Improving Printing Services at Teachers College. In the end, the college accepted our resolution & changed the way printing was done by the next semester!
  • TC is a very inclusive place, but I knew that we could do better in the way that we supported & included international students. After countless round tables, meetings, dialogues, & public reviews, I drafted the Resolution of Teachers College Student Senate on Improving the International Student Experience at Teachers College. However, it was not submitted because it was the end of our term & we didn't want to burden the incoming senate with unfinished business. Still, I handed the document over to the incoming international student senator.
  • After finding it difficult to get information about events organized by the different orgs & departments at TC, I initiated an Ultimate list of TC Listservs.

3. I supported active Student Organizations with an international focus.

  • I joined all their mailing lists, Facebook groups, & WeChat groups.
  • I signed up to be a member of all their orgs.
  • I reached out to their leadership, because I knew that they wouldn't reach out to me as previous senators were not as helpful.
  • I supported them by helping them secure funding (from the student senate, TC departments, etc), volunteers & promotion for their events.
  • I taught them how to fill funding request documents & the criteria that they need to meet.
  • During senate meetings, I would speak up for these student orgs when they tabled a motion or made a request. Highlighting their track record & how their initiative would benefit the student body. I'd end by criticizing a bad event that everybody knew. An example critique would be "let's support this as it's better than yet another booze & pizza event. This one has actually got some cultural value to it."
  • I connected organizations with similar interests.
  • I attend their events, took photographs/videos & posted on social media.


4. I supported fellow senators.

  • Mainly by attending or volunteering at their events & promoting them to my constituents. I also took photographs/videos & posted on social media. This is how my teammates knew that I had their backs & it opened the door for future collaboration.
  • During senate meetings, I'd speak up in support of proposals that resonated with my principles.

5. I supported college events.

  • Mainly by attending, volunteering for & promoting events run by the different departments at TC. I also took photographs/videos & posted on social media. This was how administrators & faculty got to know me. When they did, they kept me in the loop (for meetings, events, & funding) & supported my efforts.

6. I encouraged the celebration of cultures at TC.

  • Personally, I find cultural diversity to be an appealing thing. I would encourage people to attend my events in cultural attire &, when they do, they really enhance the experience for everyone! One simple way to celebrate the diversity at TC.
  • I, myself, walked the talk & attended events in cultural attire as well as sharing Malaysian cuisine whenever I could. I also shared Bahasa Melayu, Lat comics, & Bahasa Iban, & invited people to look me up when they visit Malaysia.
  • Michelle, my spouse, was always supportive. She always helped me out by attending events in cultural attire too & never fails to impress. She's the perfect ambassador for Malaysia. I'm very blessed to have her by my side.

Here's some of the other stuff I've done. You can just as easily do them too!


Served Delicious Malaysian Cuisine during International Week


Hosted a Fun- & Food-Filled International Food & Trivia Night in collaboration with Global Citizens Club, & Society For International Education


Hosted a Glittery International Jeopardy Night in collaboration with Society For International Education

Panelist for Admitted Students Day


Panelist for Fulbright Friday

Led Volunteers for TC Cares


Volunteered for Student Orientation


Volunteered at Community Impact


Volunteered at Second Language Research Forum by the AL/TESOL Dept.


Volunteered at NYS TESOL Winter Conference by the AL/TESOL Roundtable


Contributed to the Student Life Committee


Supported the Columbia Lions


Attended senate meetings... duh!


Took part in Title XI Training ("Protecting Against Responding to Sexual Violence" & "Gender-Based Misconduct Policy & Procedures for Students")


Thanks again for having me, TC!

It was truly an honor to serve as your International Student Senator & I hope that I was able to make your time at TC a little bit better!

To the incoming senators, I hope that this blog post gives you some useful ideas for your tenure & I'm sure you'll do an awesome job!

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