Christine Yosephin Wijaya '24 at Commencement 2024

christine banner image 2024
May 19 2024

Chancellor Tong, Vice Chancellor Lehman, Provost Waley-Cohen, President Mills, distinguished guests, esteemed faculty and staff, family and friends, and dearest members of the class of 2024, welcome! 

"Why Shanghai?" This question, this two word question, followed me throughout my entire college career. Why not Abu Dhabi? Why not New York? Why Shanghai? 

My first answer to the question "Why Shanghai?" became clear on  October 27th, 2021. At 20 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was terrifying (but also at that age I found it kind of funny) to receive this diagnosis in the middle of a worldwide pandemic while being thousands of miles away from my family and closest friends, it felt like a fever dream. I recall the struggle of trying to figure out how to complete the semester, let alone the rest of college. But my friends were there for me - coming for hospital visits and accompanying me in moments of pain and difficulty. As I looked around my hospital room at my friends, waiting patiently for me to come out of surgery, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was exactly where I needed to be. 

Such experiences are characteristic of NYU Shanghai, where many of us have grown as resilient individuals in a community marked by respect and care for each other. In a world fraught with uncertainty, the decision to embark on this journey may have seemed daunting. But we ventured into the unknown, showing a spirit of adventure as we entered a country without knowing  much Chinese, to be greeted by people in white hazmat suits at the airport spraying all kinds of antiseptic solutions on us.  Even as we navigated through strenuous restrictions and lockdowns, we supported one another. We found ways to build a community, a sanctuary where we still experienced the joys of a college experience, free from the confines of screens and virtual interactions. It is a testament to our resilience and adaptability, a testament to the unwavering commitment of this remarkable institution to provide us with the tools and support needed to thrive in any circumstance.

As we stand on the threshold of new beginnings, it's essential to reflect not only on the past but also on the opportunities that lie ahead.  As we continue on in life, there are bound to be all sorts of challenges that we will face in finding new jobs and getting into prestigious graduate programs, but I hope that we will remember to embrace the struggle.   Our journey at NYU Shanghai has been unlike any other, marked by resilience, adaptability, and a steadfast commitment to growth. I see that in the small moments - for instance, the way that Social Science majors like myself work on capstone relentlessly in the library, seeking to make much out of the 24 hours before a deadline. Even more than that, we have been there for one another since the beginning, supporting one another through screens as we enter the first year of college with our different struggles and challenges. I recall being on call with my friends every single hour of the day, helping and encouraging each other when taking classes at the oddest of times,, and of course coping so well with hybrid learning.

Our time at NYU Shanghai has offered more than just a reprieve from the challenges of the outside world. It has equipped us with diverse skills and perspectives that will serve us well in the future. We have learned to be adaptable, reframing the challenges we faced over the previous years into feasible solutions and learning how to lean in and support each other in our different journeys. From navigating cultural nuances to collaborating across borders, we have honed our abilities to thrive in an interconnected global landscape. (For many of us, this has meant dealing productively with language barriers, learning to overcome differences we see in others, and navigating our cultural differences and personal issues.  We have learned to be independent, navigating life in one of the biggest cities in the world. All these skills prepare us well for all that lies ahead.  

As we stand here today, I encourage all of you to ask yourself the same question: 'Why Shanghai?' Shanghai personally has trained me to grow in resilience and has placed me on great footing within the realm of academia and in the world. It has introduced me to this community's great system of support and care. I encourage us all to reflect on this question. For in answering this question, you may discover not only the reasons behind your physical presence in this vibrant city but also the deeper meaning of your time at NYU Shanghai.

Congratulations, Class of 2024. Let us continue to ask ourselves why—not just in Shanghai, but in every corner of the world where our paths may lead.