The Newsletter 77 Summer 2017

A student's experience of multi-cultural immersion

Xuehan - Shirley - Zhao

I could spend years telling you how much I appreciate my decision to come to NYU Shanghai, but here I will share with you one aspect of my experience: multi-cultural immersion, and how it contributed to my understanding of global education. I am a Chinese national, born and raised on the Mainland, educated in key-point (zhongdian) public schools until Gaokao (Chinese College Entrance Exam). By studying and living with professors and fellow students from over 70 countries and even more cultural backgrounds from around the globe, I’ve been motivated to see things through a new lens.

Some things that I take for granted may appear novel to my non-Chinese friends. For example, I once mentioned the legal duty of Chinese people to take care of our parents, only to be unexpectedly interrupted by an exaggerated “What?” from my non-Chinese friend. “You break the law if you don’t support your parents? No way!” I could tell how surprised she was, and, to be honest, so was I. I didn’t know how to respond to her reaction because… you know… “why would you not take care of your parents?” We ended up having a vigorous discussion about parent-child relationships, exchanging experiences in our own countries and bringing in various texts we had read in class on moral philosophy. Such occasions happen to me often. They surprise, excite, and inspire me and make me reexamine my world from various angles.

Being immersed in a multi-cultural environment also means being confronted with more serious differences. Sometimes my friends and I hold opposite opinions that can only be resolved by suspending the debate with “let’s go and get some food”; sometimes we joke about and mock one another’s living habits. Be it a casual chat or formal discussion, we don’t seek to convince others; instead, we acknowledge, understand and respect the unique positions and views that each of us holds.

I consider ‘multi-cultural immersion’ to be an essential part of a global education. For my education to be truly global, I’m not satisfied with knowing about, or touching upon, something non-Chinese. I want an immersion of variety, where I spend day and night with people of diverse backgrounds, worldviews and living styles. I’m eager to embrace the world, and am equipped with the ability and confidence to do so. Wherever on this globe I end up, I know I can and will thrive!

Xuehan (Shirley) Zhao is a sophomore majoring in Global China Studies at NYU Shanghai (