Building Lifelong Connections

Shenyu “Thomas” Xu, student, and Naoto “John” Tanaka, mentor

Shenyu “Thomas” Xu

Major: Biological Sciences, Undeclared—Life Sciences

Naoto “John” Tanaka

Majors: International Agricultural Development and Art History

Global Ambassador, Services for International Students and Scholars

Impact: Helping international students feel supported and welcome; raising cultural awareness on campus; and building lifelong connections as Aggies

Two students have forged a bond at UC Davis campus after traveling here from countries thousands of miles away.

Shenyu “Thomas” Xu, from Suzhou, China, first ‘met’ Naoto “John” Tanaka, a Tokyo native, via email. Xu had just accepted his offer of admission to the university, and Tanaka reached out to welcome him.

Tanaka, a student employee with Services for International Students and Scholars, was matched with Xu through SISS’s Global Ambassadors Mentorship Program.

His role: mentor Xu and help him acclimate to university life.

The two met frequently after Xu moved into the residence halls — sometimes every weekend. Tanaka inspired Xu to explore campus, helped him choose classes, brought him to a Halloween party and encouraged him to be more social and outgoing.

“I’ve made some new friends here, and the transition has been very smooth,” Xu says.

Now a second-year student, Xu is exploring computer science as a possible major or minor. He came to UC Davis for its biology reputation, but discovered a surprising interest in programming after taking an introductory class and finding the process of coding a simulated game “very beautiful, like magic.” He is also considering a study-abroad program in Tanaka’s hometown.

Likewise, Tanaka’s academic interests have grown. He’s pursuing a degree in international agricultural development, but admits that he’s wanted to major in every topic he’s studied because his classes have been so fun. The third-year student recently added art history as a second major.

Looking back on when he first arrived at UC Davis, Tanaka remembers receiving a lot of help from SISS students before a formal mentorship program existed.

“Then I heard about the Global Ambassadors Mentorship Program through SISS, and I thought it would be the perfect way to return what I borrowed from those students."