Harrison Ding’ 26: A Journey of Resilience, Dreams, and Global Education

Coming from the small city of Hanzhong in Shaanxi province, Harrison Ding’ 26 always dreamed of experiencing a Liberal Art Education in the United States. His dreams were dashed when the pandemic took a toll on his academics and his family life. With much uncertainty in his situation, he learned about different universities offering sino-foreign joint programs, taking a strong interest in NYU Shanghai for its strong Liberal Art Program and the opportunities for a global exposure. He is a member of the class of 2026 and is a recipient of the V-Credit Scholarship Fund for Global Talents.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 


You are from Hanzhong in Shaanxi province, how was your high school experience and how did you hear about NYU Shanghai?

I was supposed to graduate from high school in 2020 as I was applying to universities in the United States that same year. I received admission letters from different universities, but then Covid hit everyone. As I was an only child in the family, my mother was worried about my safety and wellbeing in a new country where I don't know anyone, and the covid situation back then was devastating in many countries. So despite prioritizing my preparation for the SATS and TOEFL over my high school education, I had no choice but to go back to a private high school and adapt back to studying for my Gaokao, which meant that I would be applying for a Chinese university.

My dreams of studying in an American university were dashed with the onset of Covid globally. My situation at home became worse in 2021 and 2022. My Mother, who was in sales, had a tough time at work. My Father’s business took a dive and it resulted in a lot of anxiety to keep the business afloat. This stress took a toll on his health and it resulted in the loss of his life. It was one of the most stressful times in our family lives, financially and emotionally. Since I could not apply to American universities, yet I still wanted to experience the liberal arts education, I started researching universities located in China that were jointly founded by both a foreign university and a Chinese university. When I chanced upon NYU Shanghai, I thought this was my perfect opportunity to stay in China while experiencing a liberal arts education. My mother encouraged me in my decision because from our perspective, NYU Shanghai was the best and she wanted me to aim for the best option. However financially we might have trouble affording the tuition, so having received the scholarship helped ease the anxiety of paying for college.

What is your first impression of our school?

It was quite good because I saw a lot of different things on social media and many people would share more about the school and how diverse it is. It is a more liberating environment compared to my high school experience. 

Speaking of diversity, did you stay with a roommate who is not from China? What was that experience like?

My roommate is a Cambodian American; we have very different personalities. Compared to me, he had such a diverse experience prior to enrolling into NYU Shanghai. He is very independent and has lived in different places in the world while I have been mostly living at home in Hanzhong with my family. So meeting others and learning from each other is such an interesting experience.

How did you feel when you found out you were awarded the V-Credit Scholarship Fund for Global Talents?

I would say it was a dream-come-true moment because it was a dream of mine to study in the United States. This scholarship also brings hope to my family because we were really struggling financially. Also, I am a first generation university student and my whole family has been preparing for me to go to university. When I heard there was an opportunity to apply for a scholarship, I told my mom about it. She encouraged me to seize this opportunity, even if it seemed slim, and to strive for it with effort.

Since you are in your sophomore year, have you decided what you would major in?

I am considering majoring in either political science or anthropology. I am also taking two courses to help figure out which one I would have a greater interest in. For political science, I think it will help me understand the different structures and processes in a society and how that affects our society. For anthropology, I like cultural analysis. I am also interested in finding out how foreigners see Chinese culture and how Chinese people see other cultures, just the overall idea on how culture shapes our society and how it changes gradually. 

Where do you think you will go for your Study Away in your Junior Year?

For the past two semesters, I have been studying French with the hope of reaching an intermediate level. Therefore, I am considering studying away in Paris. I like Paris because it is a place with such a long history and deep research into topics of humanities and arts. I am hoping to minor in French and planning to apply to a French university for my graduate studies. If my first Study Away semester goes well, I hope to do two semesters in Paris. 

Are there any words you would like to say to your donors?

I really want to say thank you because it not only relieves the financial burden for my whole family, but also gives me a certain sense of confidence in myself and the choices that I make. If, in the process of adapting to school life and a new environment, one also has to worry about tuition, it would be challenging to balance everything. Therefore, I am truly grateful to the scholarship donors. Also having a scholarship empowers me to be able to explore and find my own ways of seeing the world.

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