Tian Kang ‘21

Tian Kang '21

International Studies and the Ends of Knowledge 

I was excited about graduation and dreaming about the bright future to come when the pandemic hit.

My travel plans became in vain, the 10 air tickets I bought were all cancelled, the admission rate to graduate schools hit a new low, and there was nowhere I could go as an international student. The same degree of depression and anxiety spread across my peers. I started questioning myself: is there really a way out? Why did I take the choice of international studies, or why did I decide to study here 7,000 miles away from my home in the first place?

I was born into a family of scholars. I recall sitting on my father’s computer desk and watching the video clips from the Yugoslav Wars as a little boy. When I grew older, I was able to help him put together materials about the war in Kosovo. I remember finally being able to see in person these familiar places from childhood memory when I studied abroad in the Balkan states.

The pandemic and the anxiety that follows gave me a choice to slow down and look back into what brought me to where I am, and I am still in progress to find it out.

Nevertheless, it is clear that, since you are in the field of international relations, you always need to remember that you are onto something big and meaningful. The study of the world is the largest topic you can ever have, across all departments and universities. The topics are so inclusive – from the bottom of Mariana Trench to the edge of our observable galaxy, from the Peloponnesian War to the end of history.

Everything is within the reach of our exploration, explanation and imagination.

In a similar way, we share and sympathize the joy and pain of the entire human civilization. When I stood at the bridge in Sarajevo where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, what I saw is no longer a scenery spot, but where embedded our shared past. It is no longer about the gain and loss of individual beings, but about the virtues and weaknesses which once created what we now know as humanity.

I am now back in the States and am about to finish up my study at UChicago CIR. I plan to continue my academic journey of international relations, possibly at the Ph.D. program at Tsinghua University.

The life has a limit, but knowledge has none. May the past always accompany and empower us with courage and wisdom, which once gleamed in the memory of humans.

Tian Kang '21
Chicago, February 2022