Isabel Adler '20 at Commencement 2020

Adler recorded
May 29 2020

President Hamilton, Chancellor Yu, Vice Chancellor Lehman, faculty, friends, family, and classmates. Zao shang hao, xia wu hao, wan shang hao.I think I can speak for all of us when I say no one anticipated our senior year to end this way. But the more I think about it, the more I can’t help but wonder that maybe it’s somewhat appropriate. 

Four years ago, we all embarked on a journey, not knowing what to expect or where it would take us. Duì wǒmen guójì liúxuéshēngmen lái shuō, xǔduō cónglái méiyǒu qùguò zhōngguó, yě bù huì shuō zhōngwén, zài rènhé fāngmiàn dōu shì zhēnzhèng de chún lǎowài. For my fellow international students, many of us had never been to China, didn’t speak Chinese, and were true lao wai in every sense of the word.For the Chinese students, this was a first of its kind opportunity too. There were only three, small but mighty, classes ahead of us and knowing someone who went to NYU Shanghai was rare at best. Nonetheless, something about this place drew us all in.

When people ask me what made me want to come to NYU Shanghai, I tell them that’s only half the question. Picking a university is one thing, but choosing to stay there is equally as important. The allure of a new and exciting university is what sucks you in, but what makes you want to stay? 

The people.

As orientation week moved along into freshman year, I soon realized I was surrounded by people that inspired me. Never in my life had I been around so many like-minded individuals, and I don’t mean what we wanted to study. Every single student I have encountered at this place is intrinsically driven and motivated beyond belief. There’s something powerful about being in a class, even if it’s just ten people, and knowing every single one of them is gunning for success.  

And as we have all grown together, chasing our aspirations and doing so vigorously, we’ve been fortunate enough to watch the university grow with us. Every semester we’ve seen new classes, new professors, new clubs and sports teams, and new cafeteria vendors. We’ve seen incoming classes grow with each year and the university break ground for a bigger and better campus. And in light of our current global crisis, we’ve seen universities around the world look to NYU Shanghai as a leader in how to continue on.

No other university experience parallels ours. I don’t know anyone else who had a class freshman year with their entire grade, or a student body that celebrates a dumpling festival as one of its major events. I don’t know another school that collectively loves bubble tea as much as ours does, and can message the entire grade in five seconds to let them know there’s extras leftover in room 201. And I really don’t know any group of people this large that even knows what a QiLin is. But, all of these things make us distinctively, and powerfully, NYU Shanghai. 

We are more than just the class of 2020, we represent the beginning of a legacy at NYU Shanghai. The first class will always get to be the first class, but we are the first year our university was complete. Before us, the cafe was quieter and public spaces less crowded. And while those are all things we complain about now, it brings me a sense of overwhelming joy to know that we completed this school. 

I know this wasn’t the ending any of us expected, but in a way it only adds to our legacy. Not only are we the class of 2020, the class that completed this school, but we are also the class that persevered through the most unknown of times and entered into a world that was a state of complete and utter chaos. But like we’ve overcome the challenges of the last four years, we will overcome this too. NYU Shanghai class of 2020 is ready for the world, and the world is ready for us. Now more than ever, the world needs people like us to be the light in the darkness.

I’m so thankful for every single one of you, and for giving me an experience I will never forget. Thank you. 


Watch Isabel Adler's full speech at NYU Shanghai's 2020 Commencement on Youtube or Bilibili.