Wendi Kan ’22 moved from Shanghai, China, to San Diego, California, after middle school. Her introduction to American culture was tough at first, as she struggled to acclimate.
“I didn’t know how to talk to people, not to mention make friends. I also didn’t know a lot of basic things—like how to join a sports team,” said Kan.
During visits back to China during high school, Kan would speak to friends who were having similar experiences with feeling disoriented while trying to acclimate culturally within the American school system.
“Neither our parents nor the schools in the U.S. understand the huge challenges Chinese students are facing at a very fragile age,” she said. “I felt like I had the insights and responsibility to make the cultural transition easier for Chinese students everywhere.”
That experience became a business idea. Now, Kan is on a journey to bring that idea to life.
Landing At Babson
Kan was considering her college options, deciding between international relations and business when a trip back home crystalized her thinking.
“During my senior year of high school, I went back to China for winter break and was struck by how startups were rapidly changing the country,” said Kan. “I realized that I would be able to make a much bigger impact on China with entrepreneurship, so I came to Babson.”
Immersed in Babson’s culture, Kan founded Integrate, a business that accelerates growth for Chinese students at American universities by helping them better interact in both social and professional settings in American culture.
“Integrate helps Chinese students overcome cultural barriers in American high schools. We provide online interactive workshops that improve Chinese students’ confidence and communication skills to help them better interact with Americans in various scenarios,” she said.
Tapping Into Support Networks
The journey to developing Integrate involved the help of many members of Babson’s faculty.
“The mentorship I received at Babson has tremendously helped me grow as a person. I quickly learned that the professors are all very kind and passionate about advising my venture,” she said.
Kan’s professors have been critical to turning her vision into reality.
“(Assistant) Professor (Lily) Crosina and (Visiting Lecturer Michele) Kerrigan have helped me a lot. When I first started to test and build my idea, I would go to them for very specific questions, like how to run a focus group or what questions to put in a survey,” she said.
Informed By Compassion
Kan uses her direct experience to guide her business planning. This, in turn, informs a compassionate approach to what her business can and should do.
“I want to help Chinese students like me feel more genuinely incorporated into their college communities. A lot of Chinese students do not interact with American students, faculty, or organizations when they are in the U.S.,” said Kan.
“The result of this self-seclusion is that students feel lonely and disconnected,” said Kan. “By helping Chinese students become more active in their high schools in the U.S., they will then feel much more connected, and happier.”
Kan has goals for Integrate, with plans to expand its capabilities and reach.
“Before I graduate from Babson, I want to partner with schools and summer camps in the U.S. to have the Integrate program become part of their orientation. Eventually, I hope Integrate can become a part of the orientation programming at universities across the U.S.,” said Kan.
For international students and budding entrepreneurs considering a Babson education, Kan shares advice based on her experiences.
“Stay open to people who are different from you, and get to know them. The best thing about studying at a university in the U.S. is that we get to meet people from all over the world. Getting to know someone who grew up with a different cultural background is amazing; the experience makes us better humans,” said Kan.
Featured photo: Kan presents Integrate at the Summer Venture Program’s annual Showcase. Kan says programs like SVP help her connect with others, and better present her venture.
Posted in Entrepreneurship of All Kinds