Syracuse University Magazine


Ruitong "Flora" Zhou

Global Embrace

Although she comes from Harbin, China, it didn’t take long for Ruitong “Flora” Zhou ’14 to embrace life at SU after she first arrived four years ago. “I never had the difficult transition from high school to college, from China to the U.S.,” she says. “I had my friends standing by me and they supported me.”

As a first-year student, Zhou—who majors in public relations, international relations, and political science—met several graduate students from her hometown through the Slutzker Center for International Services and became friends with them. They showed her around, invited her to their dinner parties, and eased her into the campus community. “I never felt isolated,” she says. But Zhou realized many international students have a hard time adjusting to life in America, leading her to apply for a mentor position with the Slutzker Center in her sophomore year. “This has been very emotionally rewarding for me,” she says. “I feel I haven’t been through the pain, and I don’t want other people to go through that if they have another way around it.”

For the past two academic years, Zhou worked with a group of 10 to 20 international students and helped them settle in by introducing them to resources on campus, comforting them when they had personal issues, and organizing social events. Zhou also became involved with the SU chapter of the Chinese Scholars and Students Association (CSSA). As director of its communications department, Zhou helped develop the 2013 issue of CSSA Magazine, which introduced SU Chinese students to college life in America and was written roughly 80 percent in English and 20 percent in Chinese. 

While mentoring international students, Zhou’s commitment to nurturing others inspired her to work as a resident advisor (RA). Okhumale Igetei ’15, who had Zhou as his RA at Lawrinson Hall, appreciated the way she connected with students and hosted floor dinners. “If you needed anything, you could just approach her,” Igetei says. “She really helped us get comfortable—the whole Syracuse transition, moving to college and everything.”

But Zhou aspires to apply her counseling and administrative skills beyond campus. Although she’s still debating what she wants to do after graduation, Zhou says her long-term goal is to work in the public sector at an international level. “I want to work either in government for the people or work in a big consulting group and have government or a government department as my client,” she says. “I’m willing to work in some position that helps enhance U.S.-China relations—for sure.” For the second year in a row, Zhou was part of the Maxwell School delegation at the National Model United Nations in New York City, representing Czech Republic in 2013 and Tunisia this spring. In the fall, Zhou completed an exchange program through SU Abroad in Madrid, Spain, where she worked for the Fulbright Commission as an international relations intern.

Newhouse professor Joan Deppa, who’s been tutoring Zhou in English since her first year at SU, describes Zhou as globally oriented. “She’s a very modern Chinese woman in terms of her interests and her goals, the fact that she’s traveled so widely, her desire for real education,” Deppa says. “She really is a woman of her age.” —Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro

Photo by John Dowling