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A passion for international understanding

Maya Guzdar, who grew up in New York and California, will graduate in June with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. A senior class president and a scholar of Mandarin, she’ll soon begin a one-year master’s program as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

In her first quarter at Stanford, Maya Guzdar decided to sign up for a Mandarin Chinese class. She was nervous about starting college, and the language felt familiar – she had been introduced to it as a fifth-grader in Buffalo, New York, and continued to take Mandarin classes throughout high school.

Then that fall quarter experiment at Stanford turned into four years of classes in international relations and human rights; research and internships in national security, including with the U.S. Department of Defense; a summer studying abroad in Shanghai; and a sharpening focus on a future career.

“I really think that U.S.-China relations are going to be the defining question of the next century,” Guzdar says, “and we need a more nuanced and thoughtful understanding of China as a country, of the Chinese Communist Party as government leadership, and of the Chinese people as individuals.”

Outside of her academic work at Stanford, Guzdar has been a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, has worked as a campus tour guide, and has served as a senior class president – roles that have given her the opportunity to welcome peers and visitors back to campus after pandemic disruptions, revive and reevaluate longstanding traditions, and experience at large scale the quirkiness, curiosity, and compassion that she says define the Stanford spirit.

“Everyone here truly loves what they do; they’re passionate and brave,” Guzdar says. “And this gratitude and joy is what I want to carry forward. I’ve seen that if you’re happy and excited about what you’re going to do, even if it’s really difficult or intimidating, that’s 90% of the battle.”

After graduating in June with the Class of 2022, Guzdar will travel, spend time with family, and then begin a one-year master’s program as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing.