Sophie's Story

My name is Sophie. I grew up in Ningbo, and never left my hometown or my family until I began university at NYU Shanghai. I’d always yearned to further my studies in a rapidly developing metropolis. I always expected to choose a well-known Chinese institution like Fudan University or Shanghai Jiaotong University, but NYU Shanghai changed my mind.

The principal of my middle school recommended I consider NYU Shanghai, so I participated in the first Candidate Weekend here. During this two-day event, I found myself curious and eager to experience something totally new and different. I was attracted by the English curriculum, the wonderful NYU professors, and by students from all around the world. I was also inspired by speeches delivered by NYU President John Sexton, and Yu Minhong – the founder of New Oriental. I came to realize that everyone has brilliant potential, but if I got caught up in being normal and fitting in, then I would never realize that potential. I did not want to be ordinary. 

When I received the acceptance letter from NYU Shanghai, I decided to accept the offer, meaning I would be part of the first class of students in this brand new school. My parents and relatives were confused and surprised by my decision, and asked me to reconsider. They held the view that taking a risk would often times lead to unpleasant surprises, but I preferred to see myself as an adventurer – a pioneer exploring an unknown future.  

When I became a student ambassador at the next Candidate Weekend, I told candidates of the 2018 class that the future is uncertain, but I wanted to give myself a unique opportunity to accept challenges and set expectations for myself. I wanted to become an open-minded person and a responsibly global citizen of the new century.

At NYU Shanghai, I’m exposed to a level of culture diversity that I would not easily encounter at a traditional Chinese university. NYU is all about openness, encouraging me to learn about foreign cultures from international students while sharing my own culture with them. In Global Perspectives on Society, I learned new points of views on gender from foreign professors and classmates. We talked about feminism, the concept of “leftover women” in China, the “gender Utopia”, and the marginalization of LGBTQ individuals. I gained an understanding of gender identity – a topic which had never even been on the table previously. It felt like a new world of thought was being opened to me. In Fall 2014, I decided to become an Ally Week Ambassador. With a team of members, we held photography exhibitions, wrote slogans, and shot videos to share the voices of the LGBTQ community and present ourselves as allies to their struggle.

I’ve also had opportunities to share Chinese literature with international students studying Chinese at NYU Shanghai. Recently, a Norwegian friend asked me to help translate an ancient Chinese poem. I was surprised to know that the poem was Li Si (《离思》) written by Zhen Yuan. After my explanation of Chinese characters “曾经沧海难为水,除却巫山不是云”, my friend understood that these lines were written to the poet’s deceased wife as an expression of deep sorrow over her loss and treasured memory. My friend came to understand that this poem was written about a “great love”, and I felt like we were connecting over a shared dialogue. One of the values that NYUSH teaches me is that communication and understanding requires persistent courage and introspection. I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone, and accept new attitudes. Self-examination has been necessary, because I need to remind myself of my origins, and be able to express my inner thoughts.

Compared with my freshman year, this last year has been much busier and much more substantial. I’m majoring in Business and Finance. Over the summer in 2014, I attended the Honors Program: Business Entrepreneurship in the Startup Nation & the Changing Middle East in Tel Aviv University with a full scholarship. This sparked my interest in innovative startups and marketing strategy. This year, I have been admitted as a Student Research Assistant at the Volatility Institute at NYU Shanghai (VINS). I have been involved in a research project focusing on “the Impact of the Client Composition in Private Placement on Corporate Governance and its Long-term Performance in Chinese financial market”. This research project is based on the learner-centered principle, and has helped build up my ability to engage in independent study and cooperative work in an extraordinary way.

In addition to working in this research team, I also wanted to make sure that I used my time here to contribute to society. To do this, I participated in a program between the World Wildlife Fund in China and NYU Shanghai. In May, 2015, our group organized a forum called “Dialogue: Yangtze, We Care and We Act” at the NYU Shanghai campus with participants from many top local and multinational companies to share our research findings and promote the action on water conservation and environment sustainability. As the coordinator and treasurer of the project, I think my leadership ability has improved through the execution of this project. It was very reassuring to see so many people working together to achieve the same goal, and reinforced my feeling that I was on the right track.

Sometimes people ask me how I deal with so many activities, and how I achieve a balance between academic and extracurricular activities. I would say that I’m able to do these things because I learned about time management at NYU Shanghai. I’ve learned how to rank the urgency and importance of different tasks, and how to manage my time reasonably. I’m more able to accommodate different activities that I otherwise would have had to skip because of limited time.

My sophomore year at NYU Shanghai has come to a close recently, and I am going to study away at NYU in New York next semester. I know I will miss my unforgettable time here, but I am also excited to enter NYU’s global network as a young Chinese person and a global citizen. I cannot wait to go abroad and take finance courses with elite students at NYU Stern – my dream school. I have been admitted by the Global Leadership Scholars Program at NYU Washington D.C. for Spring 2016. I’m excited to go to the US capital to experience cultural immersion, political activism and public service. Apart from these study away experiences, I am also planning to learn a third language, perhaps some Spanish or Korean. I wish to make a difference in my life by absorbing, experiencing, and practicing the knowledge that I am so fortunate to have access to. Instead of worrying the future, I am blissfully enjoying the moment, because I know my path ahead is full of new and incredible adventures.

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