Empowerment on the Road

Dec 15 2016

Krista Young ‘17’s NYU journey has taken her from Shanghai to Florence and New York to Ghana. The Gazette caught up with the Finance major, who was fresh back from a World Bank Youth Summit in Washington DC, to talk about her passion for social entrepreneurship, her idea for a tortilla business, and why she chose to study at NYU Shanghai.

What attracted you to study at NYU Shanghai?

My mom encouraged me to join a Chinese class at my high school in New Jersey and I fell in love with the language. When I went to an info session in New York about NYU, one of the presentation slides talked about NYU Shanghai. I was excited because I wanted to study at NYU, and also maintain my Chinese, so it seemed the perfect fit.

I originally planned to study hospitality and had the choice of coming to NYU Shanghai or going to Cornell—which had the top hospitality program—but when I came to China to visit the campus, I realized how special it felt to be able to connect with local people and be part of the university’s inaugural class. I felt I would learn more through this unique experience because of the smaller class size which would grant students the opportunity to have a more personalized education.

What made you gravitate towards a major in finance?

I chose finance because whatever I do in the future, I need to have the skills to support myself. I don’t see myself as a ‘big banker’ type. I had all of these feelings of wanting to do something socially conscious and impactful, then I discovered there’s a whole field for that through corporate social responsibility.

What internships have you done?

I did an internship with the American Chamber of Commerce, through their Corporate Social Responsibility Department during my sophomore year. Then, during my study away semester I interned at a company in New York that aims to bridge connections between China and the US by collaborating over startups. It was really interesting to see how a startup launches from the ground up.

Finally, this summer I had the opportunity to intern with Morgan Stanley, but in the end I chose to go to Ghana instead to work with a volunteer program. The trip was organized through NYU Stern, as part of a class I was taking. It wasn’t the type of volunteer trip where you go to build a school, take pictures and leave; we started two sustainable businesses that are still operating and have even grown.

It was an amazing experience. There was a moment where we taught the women who were going to be in charge of a textile batik printing business how to keep an accounting book and how to keep track of their sales. Now they have their own business, which they can manage and maintain.

I really enjoy helping other people realize their potential and helping them learn. That’s what drives me to keep learning myself. If that means going to a big company for a few years to broaden my skillset, it will be worth so much more if I can use those skills to teach someone else.

Any plans for the future?

I entered my education at NYU Shanghai trying to figure out how to balance my interest in both hospitality and finance. My focus is that whatever I do, it must have a positive impact on other people, because I’m passionate about empowering others, especially young people.

I would like to start a social entrepreneur project that is profit-generating but helps people learn how to be sustainable.

My family is from Mexico, and I love tortillas--I am considering launching a handmade tortilla shop that involves people from indigenous communities, empowering them with secure employment and having a separate branch that can educate them and their children.

What did you learn by taking part in the World Bank Youth Summit?

I love going to conferences. I went to a bunch of them in New York, and towards the end of high school I attended a lot of conferences with the Girl Up Foundation, an initiative of the UN foundation to empower girls’ rights and promote equal opportunities for education.

What I’ve learned from being at this recent conference is that all of these big ideas students have need to start somewhere very small. My idea is simple: to start a socially conscious tortilla business, but first I am going to gain working experience and allow the idea to develop.

Do you see yourself as a global citizen?

I’ve studied abroad in Europe (Florence), in the US, and here in Shanghai. Having a Latin American background too, I feel very lucky to have been exposed to so many different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. I notice it especially when I go home and interact with high school friends who haven’t been able to go abroad or leave town. The conversations we have make me realize how much travel opens your mind, changing the way you talk to people and what you talk to them about. Living abroad has helped me realize how the world is big, but not as scary as I thought.