Building Bridges: Systems Engineering Student John Yang Shares Experience in Israel with ABC News

June 12, 2023

John Yang with ABC News reporters on TV

Ziqian (John) Yang, an undergraduate junior in the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department, joined GW Hillel in their travels to Israel. GW Hillel conducts the “Building Bridges” Program every year, allowing a cohort of student leaders of all religious, political, and academic backgrounds to travel with them to Israel for an intensive educational journey.

The purpose of “Building Bridges” is for these student leaders to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the ground, shedding an intentional light on complexities and nuances. During their time in Israel, students immersed themselves in the local culture and focused on the stories and lives of the region’s diverse people, groups, religions, and populations. 

Yang shared this experience with ABC News in a special program they led to celebrate 75 years of Israeli independence. He was first invited by the President of the student group GW for Israel (GWI), Jack Elbaum, and the spokespeople of the Israel Embassy, Elad Strohmayer and Einav Hadari, to share his experience in Israel, which led to Yang’s invitation to participate in this program. The program aired on April 26, 2023, the 75th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day.

Yang said, “Being invited to share my experience in Israel was an incredible honor that deepened my understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship. Witnessing Israel’s transformation from a desert to a thriving technology hub left me in awe.”

In Yang’s television appearance, he relayed his experience with local Israeli culture when traveling in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He emphasized how his systems engineering education and training at GW enabled him to better understand the engineering field and how different systems work together, which he then applies to real-world challenges. Yang also has an interest in start-ups, which he told ABC News made him jump at the opportunity to travel to Israel.

“Here is a fun fact for you. Israel has the world’s largest amount of start-ups per capita. This is why Israel has such a strong economy in terms of innovation, as the people are very creative,” Yang said in the interview. “For me, this was very compelling. Just traveling there to learn about how to be an entrepreneur and how to interact with local people and businesses was refreshing.”

Israel’s strong entrepreneurial spirit is precisely what Yang left with. He said, “As a systems engineering student in the US, we often shy away from taking risks to avoid failure. However, being immersed in Israel’s startup culture inspired me to embrace growth and push the boundaries of my field. In the words of ‘Start-Up Nation,’ success in Israel is not just about financial gains, but about making a meaningful impact on the world through innovation. As a student coming from GW, I would love to embrace the innovation culture and bring it back to the GW campus and to my career.”