Shirley Zhao: Opening Doors and Pushing Boundaries

I’ve been so fortunate to receive scholarships and support during my time at NYU Shanghai, including the NYU Shanghai Global Excellence Scholar award, the Shanghai Municipal Scholarship, Dean’s List, and the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) Scholarship.


Beyond that, I’m so grateful for the abundant resources that NYU Shanghai provides to its students, as well as the enormous support I received from my professors.


Last year, Professor Anna Kendrick (Director of Global Awards and Scholarships) and my other professors encouraged me to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship for China and the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship at Stanford. One out of a thousand applicants qualify as a finalist for these scholarships, and I was fortunate enough to make it as a finalist for both of them - and to win the Knight-Hennessy. Applying for these scholarships was a meaningful experience for me because it helped me connect the dots between my past and future, showing me a clear path forward.


The Way Forward

As a Global China Studies major, I had always felt that my study of China was missing a Japanese point of view. So I decided to spend my Junior year abroad at Waseda University (Tokyo), studying Japanese while engaging in an objective and comprehensive study of the shared history between China and Japan, as well as contemporary relations between the two nations.


While in Tokyo, Professor Kazuo Tase (United Nations & Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs) recommended me as an international affairs intern at SDG Partners, his consulting firm, working in sustainable development for enterprises, collaborating with Japanese local NGOs, UN Women, as well as the Global Partnership for Education, I was able to engage in key projects on gender equality, female empowerment, and international education.


My experience in Tokyo and the relationships I built there were invaluable to my education and my personal development. In particular, I came to see the power of interpersonal communication in building ties that transcend cultural boundaries and national borders. Next, I seek to further my study of Chinese history and Sino-Japanese relations in graduate school.


Words of Advice

I would urge my classmates and peers to remember that you are not alone. Families, friends, upper class students (like me), the NYU Global Network, and NYU Shanghai are always willing to help and support you.


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