Madalyn Stover came to NYU Shanghai from the small town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Her college choices came down to the local state school or China.
“I was so excited to get into NYU Shanghai that it wasn’t even a choice,” Stover remembers. “People asked me how my parents let me go, but they didn’t have a choice either,” she added, laughing. The draw for her was her previous Chinese classes in high school and the need for something different. “I wanted something cool, I wanted people to have to ask about it,” she said.
Notably, Stover remembers the lack of information that she had before arriving in Shanghai. “I came to China on four emails we got over the summer,” she said, firmly. “People would ask me questions and I would just say things because I didn’t think anyone knew the real answers.”
Arriving in Shanghai, Stover knew she’d made the right decision. “From when I first got off that plane, I knew that time was gonna so fast, and it made me introspective and sad, because I was so excited to be here,” she said. “I fell in love with the school and all the people in it. Even when things were hard, I felt like I had made a family.”
Stover’s claim to fame in the NYU Shanghai community is running the marathon on the Great Wall of China the weekend before finals week her freshman spring. “I knew about it when I came here, and I said I was gonna do it. No one really thought I would and to be honest, that was my main motivation,” she said, laughing. “The senior class knows me as the library girl or the girl running furiously on the treadmill in 268.”
She particularly remembered the support from her fellow students during her training. “The workers in the gym were so sweet and they would talk to me and ask me what mile I was on and people would get me bananas. It was all very sweet,” she said. “So many people wrote me letters and I read them all on the trip to Beijing before I ran. It was like a family.”
This family feel and close-knit friendships were crucial to Stover’s experience at NYU Shanghai. “You make fast and valuable friends, because you can’t call your parents because it’s 2am their time.” One of Stover’s closest friends at NYU Shanghai is her freshman year Chinese roommate, Qian Mei Chen. “She’s the light of my life and she knows it,” Stover said. “I had so much fun explaining how we do things in America my freshman year and she understood my humor. Inner Mongolia is not America and this girl would just laugh and laugh at whatever I was trying to make her laugh at.”
Over Spring Festival, Stover’s freshman year, she and her roommate traveled to Inner Mongolia to spend the holiday in her roommate’s home. Since that experience, Stover started calling Qian’s parents mama and baba, mom and dad in Chinese. Two years later, when Qian studied away in New York, she spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with Stover’s family. “At Christmas dinner, she looked at my grandma and said ‘grandma, would you like some green beans?’ as if my grandma had been her own her entire life,” Stover recalled, smiling. “It was so cute. My whole family adores her so much.”
Stover has been able to watch Qian grow throughout their time in university and loves what she’s seen. “It’s been so cool to watch her achieve all of her goals, she’s so inspiring.” This parallels the uptick in student caliber that Stover has seen at NYU Shanghai. “They’re so smart, the school has become so competitive,” she said.
Stover still sees room for growth in the community, though. “We should get rid of the mandatory study away, because it puts a dent in the community and makes it hard to come back senior year,” she said. Additionally, Stover thinks the Career Development Center could use improvement. “The CDC is catered to Chinese students and American students and New York is catered to American students,” she said, noting how difficult it has been for her friends of other nationalities.
Stover has some career advice to offer other students, however, noting that she will be starting a job with IBM after graduation that she had dreamed of. “If you want it, do everything you can. Don’t half-ass it even if you’re scared you might not get it. I spent four months doing case studies, all of the CDC stuff, my cover letter, resume, everything was checked and perfected,” she said. “People are afraid to put that much heart and soul into it.”
Furthermore, Stover urged everyone to remember the unique community that NYU Shanghai is. “We go to a school with people with such incredible stories that we forget how wonderful we are,” she said. “Others are so impressed by this: I was 19 years old when I came to China and I didn’t know anyone. It takes a lot of initiative and guts to do what we did.”
This article was written by Allison Chesky. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Madalyn Stover