Around the world students are beginning a new chapter of their lives. Some are beginning high school for the first time, others are starting college, and others are spending their first fall in the workforce out of school.
Here at ECNU in Shanghai academic life is no different. Orientation week has flown by in a jumble of lectures, tours, and dinners. Although the local Chinese students still have another week of vacation, the NYU students have begun classes.
Orientation, the second in my college career, achieved the same general goals as any other orientation. Yet the sensation of being the guests of a Chinese university made last week’s introductory lectures stand apart. Having attended many Chinese-organized events in America, hearing and seeing the same Chinese adults leading the orientation was familiar. But being one of the audience, along with the 170 students from America and other countries, was a reversal of roles. For previously in a Chinese setting I had been one of the hosts rather than a guest. More striking was that my American peers were listening to the same accented, broken-English speeches that I had grown up with. I wondered what those students thought, if they looked on these educational leaders with respect or with contempt.
Regardless, we are all students under the jurisdiction of the Chinese. Unless a fluent Chinese speaker, each one of us will be taking Mandarin two to four times a week per requirement. And to see so many from afar trying to learn this complex language and even appreciate the culture, is heartwarming.