For those of you who are familiar with me, I have a tendency to make bold or obscure claims that may or may not even be provable. With this in mind, I figured I would make this article easy on all of us and present a claim which, doesn’t need to be proven but rather, reinforced:
“There simply will never be another class to graduate from NYU Shanghai like the Class of 2017.”
Why is this? Well, who wouldn’t want to clone our class into perpetuity?
First of all, it needs to be addressed that no other class to graduate will have endured four semesters of GPS and GPC. With this in mind, you can all be comfortable knowing that NYU Shanghai did teach us that our claims must be accompanied with supporting evidence. In my case, I will only be using one source to reinforce why there will never be a class like ours in the future. Gasp, only one source?…. Certainly one cannot prove a point without using at least 5 scholarly approved articles.
With this, I present to you “The Inaugural Class Yearbook.” A book that is unique to the inaugural class. In fact, the other day while sitting in the student life office, I actually witnessed a member of the class of 2019 ask, “why weren’t we given one of these for our freshman year?” Well, the answer is simple: “There can only be one inaugural class.”
So now for a brief journey of this purple book.
On Page 21 there sits a photo of a purple banner that reads, “Welcome Class of 2017.” A little less than four years ago, nearly 300 students from over 35 different countries arrived on ECNU. That was us, August 11, 2013, day one of our three week orientation. Interestingly enough, in modern NYU Shanghai times, the freshman orientation is abridged to one week. For this the graduating Class of 2017 says, “you’re welcome.”
A tour of our yearbook would be incomplete without a proper overview of our student profiles. Here, we each wrote one sentence on our freshman year “thoughts.” I spent a great deal of time determining what had been the most common thought trend amongst our class. Of course, without fail, a common struggle was GPS and international student dietary burdens (Everyone check out our cute featured couple Alex and Louise. Now that’s what I call love at first world problem). However, what became most apparent was the ways in which cultural communication and differences manifested throughout the student profiles.
Believe it or not, grievances with the Western greeting “what’s up?” were mentioned seven times. Shen Qinke (Kiki) mentions, “I didn’t know what I am supposed to say when people asked me “what’s up?” so I kept smiling and staring at people until they are scared away.” At NYU Shanghai, a simple phrase essentially meaning “你好吗 or “how are you,” was lost in translation, only to perplex a large portion of the school.
Even joke telling was a massive burden. On page 26 Cai Jun (Yulanda) points out that “sometimes I just don’t understand American jokes, so I just pretend I find them really funny.”
Meanwhile, our beloved Kevin Pham adequately observed, “I always thought I was a funny dude. That was until I came here. No one laughs at my jokes because the different culture don’t understand my style of speaking.” Awkward.
Through our thoughts, I realized I should apologize on behalf of the international students for two things: our excessive use of air conditioning, and destroying the sleep cycles of our Chinese roommates. This becomes apparent on page 35, where Gong Yuting (Catherine) mentions that, “For a whole summer, I was woken by the cold because my American roommate enjoys low temperature with thick quilt while I don’t even use a quilt in the summer,” and Gu Lijia (Mental) says, “when I am sleeping, my roommate is awake; when I am awake, my roommate is sleeping.” So, sorry for this.
To conclude my summary of our class thought’s, I want to highlight what I believe to be the most positive of observances. Page 30, Chen Zijie (James) comments, “how amazing it is that such a mix of culture can live, study, and enjoy our daily lives together.” Reading this and looking back on the last four years, all one can do is smile. When claiming that no class will be like the Class of 2017, I am not describing our independent parts. We are all phenomenal people. What I am describing is the class as a collective, which is best analyzed through freshman year: the time when our Class of 2017 photo was actually just the school photo.
Now let’s turn back to the beginning of the year book. Page 3, Paragraph 2: “This book is dedicated to the Class of 2013/2017 (“it depends”). Together, we have surpassed record-breaking heat waves and pollution, two typhoons, food poisoning, no hot water, broken bathroom facilities, and the general struggles of being the experimental first class. Yet with said challenges has come the indispensable experience of overcoming. We have set our own standards and continually look to raise the bar. In this exuberant university, none are in their comfort zones, yet we are all part of one community. It was not easy, but we, as a class, have all taken part in making the noble history of NYU Shanghai. Congratulations. You made it.”
Three years have passed since the publication of the yearbook, and it’s safe to say that no freshman class will ever have to read such a reflective statement in his or her life. The University is no longer on the ECNU campus, there are now roughly 1200 students in the university, and GPC isn’t even a thing. I think we should all proud to say, we were the “guinea pigs.” This amazing community called NYU Shanghai…we started this!
So to the Class of 2017, the people who have become a family in what for some was once a foreign place, now is the time where we can finally say….. “We made it.”
P.S. there were too many incredible gems to be found within our thoughts from freshman year for me to choose. This was intended to be a graduation speech, but for the sake of appropriateness, shenanigans were excluded for the public audience. And if you are not a member of the senior class and my message made you question your place within the school, sorry for that. I love you all.
This article was written by Jarred Kubas. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Jarred Kubas