Class of 2015
Some study languages for the purpose of gaining an edge in business or competing for a high political post, but Danyang Kang's commitment to learning languages is driven by a philosophical attraction. "I was born a language lover. Language is more than a tool for communication: it is a symbol of our humanity and the unique expression of each people, each culture."
Like all great loves, Danyang's passion ultimately demanded sacrifice. Studying Spanish at the university level, Danyang was fast approaching fluency when it became apparent that because of the abnormal shortness of her lingual frenulum, she could not pronounce the trilled "r."
Although her Spanish teacher tried to dissuade her, Danyang wanted a greater intimacy with the language that she felt could only come through perfect pronunciation, and so she opted to undergo a lingual frenectomy. During the painful recovery period, Danyang spent four hours a day listening to Spanish recordings, and on the day the stitches came out, she found her pronunciation had greatly improved.
Now a fluent Spanish speaker, Danyang's mastery of adversity has given her the courage to aspire to a life of crossing cultural barriers. "I long to make the frank Americans understand Chinese euphemism; I long to introduce the Spanish passion to conservative China; I want to bring the African admiration for nature to developed Europe," Danyang says.
To make this dream a reality, Danyang knew she needed to study abroad during her undergraduate years. However, this was a completely novel idea for her family, and her parents' opposition seemed intractable. "They thought I had lost my mind, and they pushed back, saying our family could not afford expensive fees and, without connections, there was no hope that I could get full financial aid," she says.
Undaunted, Danyang struck a bargain with her parents by promising that she would abandon the idea of studying outside China if she could not get into a top university with a full scholarship.
With this goal in mind, Danyang turned up the heat on her already formidable academic regime, saying, "I stayed up until three o'clock in the morning studying for exams even if I had a fever, because I could never let my parents down."
By the end of her high school career, Danyang had triumphed, scoring perfect 800s on the SAT Math and Critical Reading exams and on the SAT Math Level 2 subject test and winning first place in China's National English Competition—all while serving as president of the student union, acting as foreign liaison of the charity club, and committing herself to mastering French by studying it five hours a day.
Danyang's parents were won over by their daughter's passionate courage and are now "100 percent supportive" of her decision to attend NYU Abu Dhabi. "They believe that I will be well prepared for my future during these four years," she says.
"I regard getting accepted to NYU Abu Dhabi as my greatest accomplishment, not only because it proved my abilities and fortitude, but also because it taught me that if you strive for your dream with all your heart, you will never regret it, even if you fail."