Zhang Qilin '21 at Commencement 2021

May 25 2021

To the poet, to the philosopher, to the sage — to the community members of NYU Shanghai — all things are friendly and sacred, all experiences profitable, all days holy, all men divine.

– Paraphrased from Ralph Waldo Emerson


Chancellor Tong, Vice Chancellor Lehman, President Hamilton, distinguished guests, faculty and staff, family and friends, brothers and sisters of the Class of 2021 around the world,

Good morning from Shanghai!


We are a small group of people who share some days so long at times, but too short at the end. What an experience! So many things…


Indeed, so many cultures, languages, talents, and dreams gathered together in one building. We started our journey with eyes wide open. “Where is that?” and “What are your plans?” were our first questions to learn about each other. In those conversations, the map of the world expands in our minds and the path to the future widens at our feet. You, my fellow classmates, are the ones who showed me the world.


Time unfolds and we recognized more of the privileges and distances between each other. “Don’t shut your eyes, Qilin”, you walked along with me. “As long as you reach out, what I have can be yours and what you bear can be ours,” you said. There’s no need to stay alone.  We are a community, and we can do it together.


Now here we are. We share each other’s accent from language exchange. We incorporate more points of view from discussions and debates. We relate to the vulnerabilities and determinations from around the world, because places that were once only a name are now homes of our family members.


The university experience is not one without conundrums, either academically or developmentally. We embarked on a journey of uncertainty with oblivious confidence. Along the way, we found our role models and became more appreciative of all the support we received. On hills of endeavor, we received the most experienced lessons. In valleys of struggling, we are granted the most noble form of aid: beneficence, patience and space, encouragement that “we have all been there.”


In the past four years at NYU Shanghai, education is the means and people are the end. In this light toward the future, learning and growing can be the process of crescendo through to the end.


There is a question in the senior student interview: What would you miss the most about NYU Shanghai after graduation? Of course, it has to be the people! 


Every time I see you, all of you, I feel, “Wow.” It is such an honor, though certainly challenging and occasionally obnoxious, to be a member of such an extraordinary group. Even at times when we are physically apart, we benefit from each other’s excellence and goodness through our bond, and wish for the best.

Then, I see Classes of 2024, ‘23, and ‘22 and can’t help wondering: What will you become in the future? As our trajectories are about to diverge, we cannot walk alongside your challenges and growths. But there’s a fantastic future ahead, one way or another, we will all be there.


In three years when all of you graduate, there will be no one at this place that remembers us, the Class of 2021. However, there will be many to follow, who embark on this same journey as we did and get prepared to set off for this wonderful world. We graduates here today will embody our values wherever we go. NYU Shanghai is and will continue to be the bridge of communications, connections, and cooperations. Hence, we live forever with our alma mater.


Congratulations and best wishes!