Kammy Kuang

Kammy Kuang

Kammy Kuang was just 16 years old when she moved away from her hometown of Canton, China, to become an exchange student in the United States.

“I always wanted to study abroad,” Kuang says of her decision to leave her family and move halfway across the globe. “I was ready to start a new adventure.”

She spent her final two years of high school living with a host family and attending school in Nashville at Merrol Hyde Magnet School.

By then, Kuang already knew she wanted to major in public health in college.

“I grew up in China. It is a developing country, but I was from a middle-class family. I always felt like I was in a very comfortable place,” Kuang says. “However, there’s so much poverty in the country. Seeing those contrasts and disparities whenever I went back to visit really changed my perspective. I just don’t like to see suffering or unfairness in general.”

When she arrived on campus in 2011, it didn’t take long for Kuang to find the necessary avenues to not only feel at home at ETSU, but also help others find their way, too.

“I got involved with the International Buccaneer Buddy program almost right away,” Kuang says of the ETSU program to help new international students adjust to life at ETSU.

Kuang, now a senior, liked the organization so much that she served on its executive board shortly after joining and is currently a group leader for the program.

She joined other organizations too, including the Chinese Student Scholar Association where she served as vice president for a year, the Public Health Student Association and a community service program through ETSU that has led her on several service trips.

On spring break during her freshman year, Kuang traveled to Atlanta to work on refugee services at an international community school. On another college break, she headed to Chattanooga to focus on issues related to food deserts. There, she helped local farmers and assisted in building community gardens.

“I’m hoping to lead a trip myself this coming spring,” she adds. “I’ve always had that passion to make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small it is.”

In spring 2013, Kuang did just that through the creation of a new organization on campus, the International Student Association.

“I’m a proactive individual and I felt like there weren’t enough opportunities for international students to be engaged,” she says. “I wanted to open a bigger platform and build the cultural diversity on campus as a whole.”

More than 50 people now belong to the organization, one that coordinates the International Week of Peace at the university. The week of activities is scheduled to take place Sept. 17-21, and although she is not leading the charge this year, Kuang is still actively involved in organizing the event.

The founding of the International Student Association was a defining moment for Kuang, who says she never really saw herself as a leader before taking on the presidency.

“I got a better understanding of what it means to be a leader. It is to influence and empower the people around you,” she says. “And I fell in love with it.”

At her internship with Project AHED (Asian Health Education and Development) in New York City this past summer, Kuang put those leadership skills to use once again, emerging as one of the two take-charge individuals in her group.

“When people meet me, they think I am very soft-spoken and quiet,” she says. “Then they realize I can be very outspoken and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen.” she says.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from ETSU, Kuang plans to seek her master’s degree in public health, either focusing on global health or epidemiology. Her ultimate goal is to take the knowledge and skills she gains through her education and apply them in developing countries, focusing on the things she values – social justice, health and peace.

“I am very passionate and driven individual about certain social causes. I care about people and that shines through in the way I do things,” she says. “I cannot stand people being indifferent about an injustice. I hate to see that people do not respond. I will always be one to take action.” 

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