Tannia's Story

My name is Tannia, I am currently the deputy director of the Public Affairs department at NYU Shanghai. In recent years, I have been working with some of China’s international education organizations with a special focus in cross-cultural leadership. I’ve been with NYU Shanghai from the beginning, and it has become like a second home to me. I spend most of my day here, eating breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner. I bond with my colleagues after work, and receive birthday gifts from human resources.  Every day, when I come into this building, I am greeted by smiles and inspiring stories from people here.

I’ve witnessed many touching moments in my time here. During the closing session for Anjuli Pandavar’s English for Academic Purposes class, I watched students presenting one minute films about their insights after exploring Shanghai. These students were given free rein over their content, and I could see how far they had come over the semester. They had been brought up in a rigorous education system where obedience was primary, but when they were given such an assignment, I think they realized how much they could achieve with their own willpower. After they watched the videos, Anjuli gave the students books from her private collection as awards from progress and improvement throughout the semester. One of the girls who received a book used to be very shy, and had difficulty participating in class, but at the semester’s end, she was awarded for her efforts to overcome her initial obstacles. Anjuli gave her a rare book of poetry that she had searched for across many countries as a token of encouragement for the student to continue writing. In that moment of joy and warmth, I laughed with the students and teacher, and unbeknownst to myself, tears sprang to my eyes. I was so happy to be a part of a university where teachers and students exchange pieces of themselves in class. This is what education should be. It’s hard for me to find the words to describe that moment of genuine connection I witnessed in that class, but it was one of my most unforgettable moments here.

I have never believed that a good life was dependent on material possessions like having the best house or car. I am also a firm believer that one’s work should not be merely a means to an end. If a place does not touch your heart and soul, does not bring you joy, memories, and laughter, then you are better off leaving. I have had so many beautiful moments at NYU Shanghai. This place has inspired me, given me new friends, and helped me find a sense of community. It was very intuitive that I should want to give back this university. I also wanted to show my colleagues that I believe this is a worthy place, that I have seen their dedication to their work, and understand that they are also contributing to this community in hundreds of invisible ways every day. In a way, my gift to NYU Shanghai was also a small gift of thanks to them. I want to use such small gestures to let them know that we are in the same boat, working towards the same goals.

I know that every bit of my gift will be used where it is most needed. The entire giving process has been efficient and pleasant as well. I received a thank you card from Director of Development at NYU Shanghai. It meant a lot to me, because it was the first formal recognition I ever received here. I was very proud to receive that letter, but at the same time, I was pleasantly surprised because I never expected to receive such a letter for a small donation.

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