Name: Shiyu (Anna) Hu

Age: 19

School: High School Affiliated to Fudan University

City: Shanghai

Country: China

What specific issue does your project focus on?

It focuses on promoting cross-cultural dialogues, mainly between teenagers.

 

What impact has your project made?

We’ve made about 14 videos by now, interviewing students from different countries. We have a US-China pen-pal network that has more than 100 participants. I believe many teenagers who hardly knew anything about their peers abroad, now do know more through our project.

Who are you helping?

Teenagers who hardly know anything about people who live in other countries, as well as teenagers who would like more about the real lives of their peers abroad.

Why do you care about this issue?

As a Chinese exchange student in DC, I realized how much misunderstanding we have between people in different countries. I feel we are somehow ignorant when assuming the cultures of other countries. And I feel this is separating us more and more.

 

Thinking back to the beginning, how did you come up with the project idea?

I believe staying in our comfort zones, we are just learning about people abroad from second-hand resources, like hearsay and propagandas. I believe we need a way that we can just communicate with each other directly. Having friends in both China and the US, I thought I can just connect them at first. And this was how my project came into shape.

What is one thing that you have learned leading this project?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you collaborate with other students? 

Yes. At first, it was mostly my friends. Later on, I got contacts of students who had cross-cultural experiences, and thus who strongly believe in the need of more cross-cultural understanding. These students helped me establish networks in their own schools and encouraged students in their schools to join my project.

Who are/were the people in your core team? How did you get to know them? 

They were mostly my friends in my core team.

 

How did you know at the beginning that they might be interested in your project idea? 

In China, I have a lot of friends who will be going abroad for college. So I was sure that they are interested in the US culture. In the US, as I was in an exchange program, I also knew a lot of people who are passionate about cross-cultural dialogues.

 

How did you convey your idea to them at first?

At first, I had a very big picture in mind. I wanted a platform where students from different countries can just communicate under different topics, directly and freely. I told them this big picture. It really got them motivated and passionate.

Why is it important to work in a team? 

 

 

 

 

Who was the first adult who you shared your project idea with? 

I contacted someone who was managing a US gov-led Chinese culture exchange program, and asked her to spread a word about my project among her students. S

 

How did he/she react when you shared your idea? 

Probably because cross-cultural exchange was exactly what she does, she was very supportive and excited about my idea.

 

What role did he/she play throughout your project, if any?

She let me present my project during their events and gave me the contact of a student leader of their program, which led to the expanding of the network of my project.

 

Has there ever been a time when you started to doubt some of your ideas? How did you get through it?

Yes. In our project, we video-interviewed Chinese and American students with different sets of questions every month. I thought through the different answers we get, both sides can learn more about each other’s culture and values. But it turned out that we received many similar answers from Chinese and American teenagers. It took me a long time to realize that this is okay. Because seeing our differences through the videos is one thing, but seeing our similarities is another thing that makes us feel closer and more willing to communicate with each other.

Have your ideas/thoughts/expectations of your project changed at anytime during your planning/executing of the project? If so, how?

My project actually never reached the stage that I hoped for. At the very start, I had the dream of building a platform where students of similar ages around the world can share ideas under different topics freely, without any barrier in-between. But as my project went on, I realized building a platform like this requires tremendous support technically and financially.

 

What training/advice do you wish you would have received when you started this project?

I think it’s okay to have a big picture or a big dream. But I hope at the beginning, someone would suggest me to keep that big picture in mind and start from something little, be flexible, and always be happy with even the smallest impacts that we have made.

 

What is a challenge that you faced during this project?

In the US, I received a lot of encouragement from adults who were interested in my idea. But in China, even though the students were willing to participate, few adults really believed in my project, many even discouraged me from doing it. I believe there are adults in China out there who are supportive of this kind of student projects. But to find them was much more difficult than in the US. Actually, I hope there was a network of resource that we could turn to both in China and the US.

 

How did you address that challenge?

I turned more to resources in the US. And in China, I looked for more support from students instead of from adults.

 

Do you face any challenges in the country that you live in (laws, restrictions, etc.)

When we uploaded videos, led group chats, we had to make sure nothing was related to politics. When we post articles, we also had to make sure there wasn’t any sensible context. But this wasn’t a big deal, as our project mostly focused on the cultural side.

What is one thing that you learned during this process? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can we support your project? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full Story...

 

I was an exchange student in Washington DC during my junior year of high school, and throughout the year, the cross-cultural misunderstandings I’ve experienced really surprised me. Having friends both in China and the US, I thought of starting dialogues between teenagers in the two countries, and that was how Trans-Pacific Student Alliance came into shape. At the starting stage, I asked my close friends in DC and Shanghai to join me. Later on, in DC, I reached out mainly to students who are interested in the Chinese culture. And in Shanghai, I looked for students who are interested in studying abroad.

 

This was relatively easy at the beginning. But when we wanted to expand our project, it went well in China as many Chinese students are willing to learn about the US. But on the other side, I realized comparatively few American students are interested in communicating with a Chinese youth. This led to the stage that I had to look for help. I contacted someone who was managing a US gov-led Chinese culture exchange program, and asked her to spread a word about my project among her students. She was the first adult I shared my project idea with. And probably because cross-cultural exchange was exactly what she does, she was very supportive, letting me present my project during their events and giving me the contact of a student leader of their program.

 

Later on, as my contact list expanded, I got to get more students interested to join, and more organizations willing to help. However, my project actually never reached the stage that I hoped for. At the very start, I had the dream of building a platform where students of similar ages around the world can share ideas under different topics freely, without any barrier in-between. But as my project went on, I realized building a platform like this requires tremendous support technically and financially.

 

There has also been time when I doubted the very purpose of my project. In our project, we video-interviewed Chinese and American students with different sets of questions every month. I thought through the different answers we get, both sides can learn more about each other’s culture and values. But it turned out that we received many similar answers from Chinese and American teenagers. It took me a long time to realize that this is okay. Because seeing our differences through the videos is one thing, but seeing our similarities is another thing that makes us feel closer and more willing to communicate with each other.

 

Looking back, I would hope for more support from the Chinese society in general. In the US, I received a lot of encouragement from adults who were interested in my idea. But in China, even though the students were willing to participate, few adults really believed in my project, many even discouraged me from doing it. I believe there are adults in China out there who are supportive of this kind of student projects. But to find them was much more difficult than in the US. Actually, I hope there was a network of resource that we could turn to both in China and the US.

 

I am happy that many teenagers who hardly knew anything about their peers abroad, now do know more through our project. I’m happy with the comments I’ve received from the youth reading our articles, the size of our pen-pal network, and the improvement in our videos. I think it’s okay to have a big picture or a big dream, and I would suggest other students to keep that big picture in mind. But when starting a project, start from something little, be flexible, and always be happy with even the smallest impacts you have made.