Our community is perfect. We are integrated between demographics and genders and friend groups. NYU Shanghai’s communicates impeccably with NYU New York, NYU Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Global Network University. All NYU Shanghai students have incredible school spirit. We are fulfilling the intercultural mission that we came here to achieve. We’re so perfect only seven students showed up to the forum between On Century Avenue and Student Government this past Thursday evening.
The only other explanation for the complete lack of interest is that we don’t care about our community. That the 600 students that came to Shanghai ready to build a university, to build a community, to be part of something incredible, have all given up hope. I cannot imagine that the students I explored Shanghai with during orientation and who fell in love with 外滩 (wài tān, the Bund) and 淮海中路 (huáihăi zhōng lù, Huaihai Middle Road) have stopped trying to connect with our community. I’m not sure what my experience will be next year if August isn’t filled with the same excitement I experienced the beginning of this year – the big ideas in the beginning and the countless hours of hard work that lead up to the end product.
Working at the Admitted Students’ Weekend two weekends ago, I was reminded of how wonderful and unique this school is. The Class of 2019 is coming to Shanghai in August prepared with minds full of brilliant new ideas to bring to the table and the work ethic to continue the projects that we have begun. That being said, I cannot picture an orientation where the sophomore class has stopped trying to improve the community, where the Class of 2019 is ready to meet us and the Class of 2018 is over and done with it. But maybe we are the perfect community that has no need for forums.
There’s no divide between the Chinese and International students. We don’t have a Facebook page where students post aggressive comments blaming half of the student body for a library filled with unattended belongings, regardless of the possibility of it being the other half of the student body or that there is a genuine cultural difference. Instead there was open discussion, calm comments, and a conclusion was reached that was amenable to everyone is a respectful way. None of us have concerns about dorm life next semester, because we know that we will all be integrated no matter what. Freshman living separate from sophomores, or men living in floors alternating from women won’t be a problem, because we know that we will all be united no matter what.
That’s a pretty perfect community to me. Those of you who didn’t show up to the meeting: you’re not part of the community (or at least that’s how it seems). We’re doing pretty well for a school in its second year l and I’m so proud to be part of the community that we do have. Compared to other schools I was accepted to and to where my friends from home attend now, I am immensely happy to have chosen this community. We do it a lot better than everyone else. That being said, we have progress to make. Seven people showed up for our forum on community. Three of them were the organizers of the event. So, including me, five people care about our community.
Sophomores are studying away and are checking out, I guess. They have stopped caring about our school, have stopped wanting to be involved, are ready to go abroad and make a new life. The sophomores are saying “peace out, Shanghai, see you in a year.” Who really cares how the community transforms while they are abroad anyway?
I have a suggestion: let’s all rant on Facebook and write obnoxious posts calling people out for their behavior and not actually try to fix things. Let’s all keep to ourselves and try to struggle through finals and homesickness and language/cultural differences on our own. Who wants a great community to lean on anyways? Let’s look at all the people that are leaving our community. Sure, people transfer from other schools for all sorts of reasons, but it’s happening at our school as well. As a new school, of course more people are leaving. That’s to be expected. However, this exodus is still concerning to me and even more so because no one seems to want to come together and talk about it as a community.
I’ll give all of you the benefit of the doubt. Thursday afternoon was a beautiful, sunny 75 degrees (Fahrenheit, I haven’t managed to convert to Celsius yet) and pollution was low. So, why would you sit inside and listen to a forum anyways? Finals are approaching and it’s reasonable to not waste an hour inside when it’s still not close enough to the end to feel like you have to study. I understand it. To be honest, I don’t even go to half of these things.
Yet, I’m still so saddened by the idea that our community is crumbling and that we’re not still striving to get better every day. That we’re not working towards complete, uninterrupted integration. Even if that’s impossible, I want us to believe that we are the community that is coming closest. I want to believe that we all still believe in the community full of cultures from all over the world that we came here to join. I remember being entranced by Bo Donners, my roommate at the Admitted Students’ Weekend, because she’s from the Netherlands and went to school in Bosnia.
Please try to keep that spirit alive, 同学们 (tóngxuémen, classmates). I believe in this school and our community. I believe that all of you had prior obligations that made it so you were unable to attend that forum or that you were building our community in other ways. I believe that you were all integrating on your own, because you are all beautiful and wonderful and intriguing adults that I have had the pleasure to get to know this year. Let’s not let each other down; let’s build our community up.
This article was written by Allison Chesky. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Erin Patrice O’Brien