Yichi Zhang spent the childhood years of his life in Beijing, China, without internet or a plethora of TV programming. While some might wonder how he could get through childhood without The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, the absence of internet and TV led Zhang to discover his passion.

Zhang’s parents purchased a VCD series on American advertising, and his repeated viewing of the films, along with his study and admiration of Nike’s advertising campaigns, helped Zhang realize he wanted to eventually pursue a career in advertising.

At 16 years old Zhang came to the United States to attend high school in Leesburg, Virginia. While looking at universities, he was attracted to the University of Richmond due to its recognized liberal arts education and the nationally-ranked business school. As a senior business student at Richmond, Zhang has been actively involved and taken every opportunity to further his education, both in and out of the classroom, since coming to campus.

Zhang has declared four business concentrations: finance, entrepreneurship, marketing and international business. “Originally I planned on only having a marketing and international business concentration. However when I realized I could have more, I jumped on the opportunity,” Zhang said. His broad studies have helped him gain much professional experience, now having completed three individual internships.

A Richmond alumni and former fraternity brother of Zhang’s helped him secure his first internship at Merrill Lynch working in the company’s wealth management department. “While at Merrill Lynch I was encouraged to attend meetings and participate in discussions. It was my first real-world financial experience. What I learned most was that any type of business is all about the people,” Zhang said.  This past summer, he completed his second and third internships in China, the first with Wells Fargo in Shanghai and the other with Deutsche Telekom’s Detacon Consulting. While at Wells Fargo Zhang worked on international trade and foreign exchange projects by calling clients, conducting market research and visiting various financial firms, including HSBC, BMO and Reuters, around Shanghai. “I made a lot of connections while at Wells Fargo,” Zhang said. “The best part was working with my mentor, the treasurer of the organization. She introduced me to all of the traders she knew and helped me greatly improve my networking abilities. I still maintain a connection with her and the other friends I made today.”

Zhang used these networking abilities to land his third internship at Detacon Consulting. While out with colleagues one night he began talking with a man who left him with a business card. “I used the skills I learned at the Robins School of Business’ Q-Camp and followed up with him the next day. After an interview process, I began working for the company,” Zhang said. He spent the reminder of the summer in China with the consulting firm until returning to Richmond for the fall semester.

“I learned so much while in China this summer. The information I needed to know going into these internships was so critical, and I wouldn’t have been as equipped if it weren’t for the education I have received from the Robins School of Business,” Zhang said. While his four concentrations have taught him countless academic lessons, Zhang believes the extracurricular opportunities have been the most valuable for him. “Some of the most valuable assets to Robins’ students are learned out of the classroom. Our school has trained the students to be so prepared in terms of communication and interpersonal skills. You don’t receive the opportunity to improve interview or networking skills every day in the classroom,” Zhang said.

Zhang continues to improve his professional and academic abilities by staying active on campus. He is currently Student Government Association president of the Robins School and founder and president of Delta Sigma Pi, the newest business fraternity at Richmond. He also attends the majority of the Robins School events as a photographer. After graduation he plans to pursue an MBA and professional career in the U.S. “In the future I would like to return to China and work on international projects, but there is so much for me to learn in the U.S. that I want to gain experience here first,” he said.

Wherever he goes, Zhang will always hold Richmond close. “I will contribute and give back to the school in any possible way I can. Coming to Richmond was one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my life. Being from China and a small private school, I wasn’t sure I could fit in here, but the faculty, students and staff have been so nice and supportive,” Zhang said. “Now, when I go back to China I’ll always feel the need to come back to Richmond, because this is my home now.”