Stories and Advice From Our Class of 2015

Wang Xu

My story:

After returning from Washington, D.C., I bumped into my assigned mentor at the Asia Society, Wang Jue, and he asked about my biggest takeaways from the trip. Without much thought, I said, “I think that China is a much more powerful player within the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank than the U.S. is within the World Bank.” In hindsight, I honestly did not fully understand how these banks work. I jumped to this conclusion based on my limited knowledge of economics, as well as information broadcasted through popular media accounts.

Wang Jue was skeptical of this statement, and did not agree at all with my point of view. He asked if I could support my statement. Handing me a piece of paper, my mentor asked if I could write out the framework for my argument. Seeing the determination in his eyes, I knew I had dug myself into a deep hole. Altogether, I spent four hours scraping together my argument. In the end, I wasn’t able to persuade him. Wang Jue, of course, let me off the hook. I walked away from the conversation appreciative of his attention and looking forward to tackling more problems like this in the future.

During my month in the U.S., I met many very accomplished and dedicated people. This inspired me to begin to take full ownership of my ideas and perspectives. Conversations with Wang Jue and the founder of U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars, Ouyang Bin, embodied just that. Every time I brought up a question, they would first ask, “What do you think?” Only after I would answer and express my own thoughts and opinions would they then share a detailed explanation.

My advice for future Young Scholars:
During the program, I saw this sentence and it resonated: This is not a small project. This one month of time really has the potential to change your life—it depends, of course, on what you make of it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is by no means a competition. If you were to ask me what I’ve drawn from this experience, I would say it is the emergence of my true self. The U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program not only supports your individual growth but also grows and evolves with you.

Pingcuo Zhuoma

My story:

We spent a captivating two hours conversing with C. Rose Cortese, the program administrator for the Regional Studies East Asia graduate program at Harvard University. Her main message was that we should develop long-term plans around our specific passions and pursue those to the fullest, rather than simply living day-to-day. One particular sentence really stuck with me, and I return to it whenever I feel hesitant about taking the next step: “A lot of people plan their careers, but I plan my life.”

There is no doubt that young people, in this growing and evolving global society, will always feel anxious about their future professional prospects. Ultimately, however, life is multifaceted, and its seemingly isolated parts connect to create a meaningful whole. Chasing a successful career should not be the only pursuit in life.

During this very immersive program, we were given the opportunity to explore everything in a free and uninhibited environment. We came into contact with many inspiring individuals from whom we could all learn. They became a window through which I could observe the United States. Through them, I came to a greater understanding of the United States and learned about viewpoints I could never have conceived of before my visit.

My advice for future Young Scholars:
I would describe the U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program to be a wing of a bird—swooping us up and bringing us into a completely new and different environment. In a society focused on material success, the program really challenges this ideal and widens your perspective. You are empowered with the confidence and strength to grow and the courage to take the first step outside of your comfort zone without doubting your own abilities in the process. 

Liang Qiqi

My story:

My most poignant moment of the summer was when my plane landed in Beijing upon my return from New York. I thought to myself: The U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program gave me an incredible opportunity to not only explore a new place, but also to learn about myself. This experience allowed me to closely examine my inherent ways of thinking and reflect upon my own vulnerabilities.

We spent one of our four weeks attending a leadership workshop at Harvard. On our first day at Harvard, we were asked to reflect upon all of our life’s experiences in order to identify the myriad connections between seemingly disparate events. There I was sitting in my chair, playing with the sheet of paper, aimlessly doodling. I began to think about the influence my family and my past experiences have had on my own habits, prejudices, and even my way of speaking. I once overheard my family talk about my maternal grandmother’s life of hardship, but never really thought about how that might have affected my own choices.

This workshop allowed me to delve deeper into my own roots and discover my personal strengths and motivations. I realized that empathy is a powerful tool working like a thin thread to pull disparate elements together.

My advice for future Young Scholars:
This journey allows you to explore so many different fields—economics, science and technology, the humanities—but also allows you the space to reflect on your past in order to look forward. You should really do your best to fully prepare. The key is to empty your mind in order to soak up all of what this amazing experience has to offer.

Hong Xinyu

My story:

Before participating in the U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program, I was filled with a spirit not so much of confusion but more of an eagerness to persevere. I always struggled with my area of interest but also always thought that I had a clear path that I knew I would pursue.

Participating in the the U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program was the first time that I came across so many different people from so many different fields—some of whom were extremely dedicated and persistent in following their dreams, while others had gone with the flow and adapted to their circumstances. Oftentimes, in order to bravely face possibility, you must first in your heart know who you are, then there will be even more possibilities that exist. After the program ended, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of perplexity but also curiosity and excitement. I became very interested in everything that is happening in this world. Now, I am even more willing to reflect on these world issues and in some way participate.

The U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program is like a seed; it introduced me to a world of possibilities. It also gave me the courage to try something new. It is almost as if everything was converging—like a river flowing into an ocean. I became enlightened, astonished, and joyous through this process.

My advice for future Young Scholars:
The U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program does not measure people against one particular standard. It goes unsaid that applicants must be outstanding in their class. An open mind is essential to fully absorb, reflect, and filter all of the rich information that you are exposed to. More importantly, you will need a foundation to turn your reflections into action. Don’t worry about your weaknesses or whether what you’ve accomplished is inferior to others. What’s more important is the effort you put towards creating solutions for society and how you will turn these ideas into reality. This is what I understand to be the spirit of the U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program. 

Dang Weikun

My story:

I think the best way of evaluating a program is afterward when you return to an environment that you are familiar with and reflect on your experiences. It is then that you are overwhelmed with a complicated, complex set of emotions.

I believe that it is only through experiential education, when one is fully immersed in an experience, that you are able to feel this complexity. The U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program gave us innumerable opportunities to engage in diverse dialogues. We got exposure to the histories and missions of different institutions and the opportunity to listen to individual stories and about their choices that they’ve made in their lives.

Everyone says that New York is a melting pot and that people move to New York to chase their dreams. However, there are also many problems that are apparent, for example, related to diversity, inequality, and the livelihoods of people. The city can be that miraculous sometimes. It can present everything abruptly in front of you, catch you off guard when you least expect it, and all of sudden everything becomes clearer. While other times you’re just filled with extreme doubt. After being exposed to this magical quality of New York, we are looking forward to learning more. 

My advice for future Young Scholars:
If you are persistently knocking on a door and it finally opens, in that moment you don’t ask why, but rather you immediately rush through. The U.S.-China Dialogue Young Scholars Program is just like this analogy. You shouldn’t worry about how many other students you’re competing with or about the probability of being accepted to the program. The most important thing is to begin—to take the first step forward towards this experience. There will always be a change that you can see within yourself along the way. It’s up to you! 

Translated from Chinese and edited for clarity by Mei Lum.

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