A 7,000-mile journey from home. A new language. A new culture. A pandemic that threw new challenges at her and prevented her from visiting her family for years. Yiming “Krystal” Qi’s road through college has been filled with hurdles. She has not only cleared them all, but also excelled in the classroom and as a campus leader.
Qi will graduate from the University of South Carolina with honors in May with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. She also won the 2022 College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management Dean’s Award for Outstanding Leadership.
A native of China, Qi was considering a career in art or design as a high school student. However, aptitude test results showed her as an especially good match for hospitality, and her interest was piqued. Learning that the University of South Carolina had a highly ranked hospitality management program, she applied and soon was on her way to the U.S.
Qi quickly stood out, delivering excellent academic work and becoming a College of HRSM Leader. The Leaders, chosen through an application and interview process, serve as the faces of the college, particularly for prospective students. They lead tours, give recruiting presentations, and assist with many events.
It's very funny because I don't consider myself as a leader all the time, but it happens naturally. It's not that I have such great public speaking skills. It's just that I'm willing to take more responsibility,” Qi says. “I volunteer at a lot of events. It’s my time and I could do something else, but I feel like it’s a good thing for me to do and good for our college.”
That willingness made Qi a leader even among her fellow HRSM Leaders, often the one to take charge when there was an event to plan or a project to complete. She also helped found the HRSM Global Community Club, a student organization dedicated to bringing together people from different places and backgrounds.
The club has grown steadily for three years with Qi as president, and was a finalist for the university’s Student Organization of the Year award in 2021-22, chosen for that honor from among hundreds of groups on campus. More importantly, it has created what its name calls for: a global community.
“It’s open to all students. We have people from other countries and some who just want to learn more,” Qi says. “When we have a meeting, you hear Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, all kinds of different languages as people are just chatting.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Qi from visiting her family in China for years now, and forced the cancellation of a prestigious internship she had earned at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, but she has found support at South Carolina and particularly in the College of HRSM.
“Everybody here is really helpful. Whatever I’ve wanted to do, they’ve been there to direct me or give me help,” she said.
Qi interned in the college’s international affairs office after the Sea Pines opportunity was canceled by the pandemic. She worked under International Affairs Manager Christina Sayers, with whom she had also worked closely in founding the HRSM Global Community Club (Sayers serves as the club’s advisor).
“It’s all these connections I’ve made. That’s what makes it really fun for me, being here,” Qi says. “I have a really good connection with all my professors.”
She hopes to continue building those connections, having applied to stay at the university and the College of HRSM to pursue a Master of International Hospitality and Tourism Management degree beginning with fall semester of 2022.