Commencement Special: Dennis Hu '23 and Parent Yao Fenghua: Reflecting on Four Years at NYU Shanghai

As another academic year comes to an end and our graduates eagerly embrace the adventures that await them. It's a time to pause and marvel at the incredible odyssey they've embarked upon. This journey has been a tapestry woven with countless triumphs and challenges. Throughout each stage, our graduates have been lifted up by a multitude of supporters – their fellow classmates, esteemed professors, and, above all, their unwaveringly supportive parents. We had the privilege of sitting down with Dennis Hu Shiyi ’23 and his mother, Yao Fenghua. Dennis is a member of the class of 2023 and is a Torch for Future Global Scholarship Fund recipient. Together, we delve into the unwavering support from his family that has shaped his paths to success in this four-year odyssey. 

Use three words to describe your time in NYU Shanghai. Why did you choose these three words?

Dennis: The three words that come to my mind are liberating, discovery, and extraordinary. I felt uncaged the moment I started college life because there is so much freedom at NYU Shanghai. Through different experiences, I learned to break stereotypes I used to have about myself and about people from various backgrounds. These four years I was fortunate to have made a routine out of something that is, in every sense, extraordinary. When I recall what I have done, none of them seem trivial and I won’t take any of it for granted.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your four years of studies, and how did you overcome them?

Dennis: The biggest challenge I faced was that I was quite indecisive in choosing my major and, even after I had made my choice, I was constantly second-guessing myself. Talking to professors in the respective fields was definitely something that helped tremendously and one that I should have started doing sooner. Hindsight has shown me that deciding on a major is not a defining moment. There are ample [opportunities for] flexibility and potential.

How did you support your child during challenging times? What were some steps you took to help your child cope?

Fenghua: We always reassured him that he is never alone and that we will stand by him through thick and thin. We are always ready to lend our ears and shoulders to him at any time of the day. We are not expecting a perfect son and have learned to accept every aspect of him. When he finds himself in a challenging situation, he tends to go through it with perseverance and determination. 

How have your attitudes and habits changed after the Covid pandemic in the last three years?

Dennis: I was fortunate enough to have had a semi-normal four years of study despite the pandemic. My experience with prolonged lockdowns and online classes were relatively limited, but having been through the pandemic has made me more aware of the value of the attention span a person has. Active management of the attention span as a finite resource has been helpful in making studying more efficient.

What growth have you witnessed in your child as they learned to overcome the difficulties?

Fenghua: I have witnessed him improving his independence during his study away semesters, his confidence in achieving a high score on his exams, his tolerance to others from different backgrounds, his patience with friends, his exploration and understanding of the world, his constant introspection, and his consistent self-discipline.

What did you learn about yourself, and how has this impacted your future plans or goals?

Dennis: I learned that I replenish my energy in solitude, while engaging in deep reflection of myself and my situation. Although I am still exploring what would be the possible paths that make the most sense for me, I believe this piece of insight about myself will play an invaluable role in helping me make decisions.

What are some wishes you have for your child now that he is graduating?

Fenghua: I hope that he keeps on the right path in life: to be healthy both mentally and physically; be happy; to be able to see the beautiful things in life; be curious; be rich in experience and be whatever he desires.

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