From Mao to the Magic Kingdom: A Letter to the Class of 2017

"Class of 2017, thank you for being my family."

Four years ago when I stood in front of Mao’s statue for my first university class photo, all I could think about was that slice of pizza I’d devour once I flew back home to Jersey. It was the end of my first year in college and I was exhausted. Weren’t we all exhausted? Our freshman year consisted of adjustment, after adjustment, after adjustment. We all had to learn new languages, and initially everyone had a tough time communicating with each other, but gradually we discovered a common language we all shared. We started communicating with each other through our eagerness to learn more about our new environment and collectively overcome the struggles that came with it. The entire class didn’t know where to eat for the first month at East China Normal University (ECNU) and it took us a good two weeks to discover the side gate on campus. Needless to say, freshman year was a challenge and by the end of it we all just wanted comfort. But we still met at the Mao statue that day, smiling and unified in front of our Geo building for that photo.

Four years later, as I stood in front of the Magical Kingdom of Shanghai Disney for our second class photo, all I could think about was how to make this present moment last a bit longer. How can I stay put here with these people and at this school a little bit longer? Although not everyone was present, you were all in my thoughts. Each and every one of us has played a significant role in the formation of our university, our class, and our family. And I am not ready to leave this just yet.

I entered my last semester wanting to cherish every moment and take in all of Shanghai while I still could, but the capstones, the applications, and those final required courses caught up to us, and more than anything our minds were clouded with stress about what we are meant to do after May 28. As much as I planned and hoped, many of us couldn’t really find the time we had initially hoped and expected to spend together. And this is why I am forever grateful for our time at the Magic Kingdom, brief as it may have been.

On Sunday Apr. 23 the Class of 2017 did the unthinkable. Somehow, a majority of drowsy seniors woke up at 6am on a Sunday to spend a day in Disneyland. Despite the early morning, long queues, blazing sun and pangs of hunger, there was not a single face without a smile. As we gathered to take our class photo, I couldn’t help but feel a roller coaster of emotions running much faster than the Tron ride we had just enjoyed.

As we entered the Magical Kingdom, I believe we had fairy dust sprinkled over our heads, because there was no mention of our unknown futures. Not everything in our futures will be magical and sprinkled with fairy dust but I truly believe that no other university has seen another class that can make the best of any situation like ours did. Somehow, we made unlivable situations livable, most courses passable, developed irreplaceable friendships and transformed the toughest experiences into valuable life lessons.

As May 28 approaches, I hope we can all truly enjoy every remaining day of our NYU Shanghai experience. From the rollercoaster that was freshman year to literally stepping off rollercoasters senior year, let us enter the next stage in our lives holding onto these memories.

Class of 2017, thank you for being my family. Know that you have made a difference in my life as I’m sure is the case for many others as well. I can only hope I could make a positive one in yours too. I have been shown kindness, love and compassion in the most beautiful ways and I will forever have a place for all of you in my heart. I know I’m being super mushy but I am certain that no one can take away this experience we’ve shared. NYU Shanghai is a family for life.

P.S. : Let me tell you, four years later, Chinese is still not easy.

This article was written by Krista Young. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Krista Young

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