Commencement Special: Lu Shan '23 and Parent Yang Jialin: How Far We've Come: Four Years at NYU Shanghai

These past four years have been a transformative journey for our students, not just academically, but in understanding themselves and the world around them. From discovering his love for musicals to navigating his hectic final semester, Lu Shan ’23, recipient of HiTime Fund for NYU Shanghai, has had the unwavering support of his parents. We sat down with Lu Shan and his mother, Yang Jialin to hear more about how his parents have been a pillar of strength for him over the last four years.

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

Lu Shan: Exploration because, through the four years, I learn to say yes to more unfamiliar and unknown experiences. NYU Shanghai is a utopia for exploration, where we are passionate about supporting and celebrating every novel idea, and we encourage boldness and a spirit of exploration which has given me more to anticipate for the future. Freedom, because I have learned to be more sensitive and passionate about life as I learned to empathize with other social groups around the world. This frees me to be more capable of accepting and experiencing a variety of emotions, including joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness. This realization brings me the most joy. Finally, love, because I have encountered group after group of lovely people at NYU, including my classmates, professors, and staff. The atmosphere of friendship at NYU is something I will cherish for a lifetime.

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

Lu Shan: During my freshman year's first semester I was learning to adapt to a rigorous academic course load and had a class with a heavy reading load, strict professors, and a demanding elective. I sought help from professors and received tutoring to overcome it. The second challenge was in the latter half of last year when I was handling multiple research projects, various graduate school applications, and coursework. It was the most stressful six months, but with the support from IMA friends, and guidance from professors and my parents, I was able to think about what I truly wanted. Looking back now, although the pressure during that period was intense, I was able to handle the situation well.

How did you support your child during challenging times? 

Jialin: Shan was independent at a very young age. We always allowed him to set his own goals and find his own paths to achieve them through various trials. Choosing NYU was also his own decision. I was delighted to see that he has adapted well to the multicultural environment of NYU Shanghai and has developed a deep appreciation for the school's teachers and classmates. My son took an active approach to learning and took many different courses – some courses were related to his major, while others are out of interest, because he believes they will contribute to society. 

In his senior year, he was under a lot of pressure to complete his graduation projects, applications for graduate school, and two extracurricular projects. I had two deep conversations with him, where I listened to his reflections on his strengths, limitations, and the underlying motivations behind each decision he made. Through these conversations, he gained a clearer understanding of what he truly desired. Ultimately, he received the ideal offer he wanted and is filled with anticipation and enthusiasm for his future.

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

Lu Shan: In my opinion, mixed mode has its pros and cons. The aspect of this mode that saddens me the most is that communication among classmates is difficult. The valuable interaction time before and after offline classes gets disrupted in online sessions through platforms like Zoom. Establishing connections with classmates and professors was also challenging because of the lack of non-verbal cues and eye contact in these videos. This gradually makes me feel that attending [online] classes is just about listening for knowledge, rather than learning in the dynamic environment we get in a physical classroom. 

However, one advantage of online classes was that they provided me with more freedom and flexibility with my time. Additionally, some technical courses are better suited for self-study, and professors can play a guiding role. For these types of courses, I enjoy self-learning through online resources, which also saves time.

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

Jialin: I have witnessed Shan's transformation from a shy and introverted teenager to an open-minded and mature young adult. My son used to have some social anxiety, but over these four years, thanks to the multicultural and inclusive environment at NYU Shanghai, he has evolved into a warm-hearted person who can befriend individuals from different backgrounds and actively help others. Faced with various challenges and immense pressure, he has become better at finding ways to cope with the situation. Not only is he able to manage negative emotions, he is also able to guide his classmates and friends in relieving stress and overcoming obstacles.

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

Lu Shan: I can say that I have discovered some possibilities for myself at this moment. First of all, I have truly, truly found my love for musical theater in New York. During my two semesters of study away, I watched 25 musicals shows, and even after returning, I constantly missed Broadway musicals. If I have the opportunity in the future, I definitely want to be part of the arts industry, especially the musical theater industry.

In the near future, I want to become a scholar. After doing research firsthand and having numerous conversations with my mentor, I discovered that being a researcher is not as mundane as I had imagined. The excitement and curiosity that comes with every new idea popping into my mind are incomparable to many office jobs. I have chosen to study behavioral economics as it perfectly combines my interests in psychology, mathematics, anthropology, and economics. So, I am really looking forward to my days of pursuing a PhD at UCSB in the future.

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

Jialin: I hope that in the next journey of his life, Shan can continue doing what he loves, meet good people, have a carefree heart, and be happy and at ease in any situation.

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