Xi Gao '15
MAJOR: Economics, Asian Studies
CURRENT POSITION: Princeton in Asia Fellow
Xi Gao’s parents didn’t speak English when they emigrated to the United States. But they left China, and worked 12-hour days in restaurants, to give their daughter chances they never had.
The chance to go to college, to have a corporate career, to be whatever she chose.
And right now, after a successful few years at PwC in Boston, she’s choosing to be a Princeton in Asia Fellow.
Founded in 1898, PiA is nonprofit organization independently affiliated with Princeton University. It strives to foster mutual appreciation and cultural understanding between communities in the East and West by connecting service-minded individuals and partner organizations in Asia.
Gao will spend the next year in Shanghai, China, with tech start-up IoT One, where she’ll specialize in accelerating the industrial use of Internet of Things technologies.
“The Internet of Things gives us great technology like smart refrigerators, self-driving cars and fitness watches,” said Gao, who worked in information technology at PwC. “As a researcher and consultant, I’ll help build partnerships between IoT and manufacturing companies, and help companies understand and implement Internet of Things technologies.”
She’s also hoping to build connections of a more familial kind—her parents are from Fujian, just a few hours from Shanghai. Gao is excited about learning where they come from. This will be her first time in China alone, she said, and her first opportunity to fully immerse herself in her heritage and more deeply understand her family’s roots.
Gao’s also looking forward to using her language skills (she’s fluent in Mandarin) to become part of the local community in Shanghai and contribute to it in some way. Turning her own opportunities into something beneficial for others is a habit of Gao’s.
“Coming from a low-income background, I have been very fortunate to be part of organizations that have helped develop who I am today. The main two are Summer Search and Posse Foundation,” Gao said. “Posse empowers students to reach their full potential with mentorship and an incredible support network, and provides full-tuition college scholarships.”
“Thanks to the partnership between Posse and Union, I was able to attend Union and build lasting relationships with professors and other students that have changed my life.”
To express her gratitude and pay it forward, Gao helps organize annual dinners for these entities, supports their fundraising efforts and works to build corporate awareness of their missions. She’s also been involved in organizing groups of professionals, who volunteer with and teach high school students networking skills.
“Every step of the way toward my education and career, I had the support of great organizations,” Gao said. “I want to be there to create equity for low-income students to have the same opportunities as others. Their abilities should not be limited by their financial backgrounds.”