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NYU Shanghai students and alumni unite to support Wuhan
By:Wu Qiong  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2020-02-24 10:57

While scattered in different countries across the world, students and alumni of New York University Shanghai united in a virtual choir to show their support for Wuhan and communities affected by the COVID-29.

“We see the same moon/Feel the same sun/And when we wake up/We’ll recognize/We are not strangers…”. The lines are from “We are Not Strangers”, a song familiar to generations of NYU students. The music video of the choir was released on February 16.

About 38 students from six NYU Shanghai classes – from the first-ever class to graduate in 2017 to the sophomore class of 2022 - recorded themselves singing the song from wherever they were located, from outside the NYU Shanghai campus to a dorm room in New York to a living room in Singapore.

The idea of the virtual choir was put forward by David Pe, Dean of Students. David, as a Chinese American, has been working at the university since 2012. In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, he said, “In times of hardships and challenges, it is important to find something that can remind people of the meaning and purpose of community. The outbreak has impacted a lot of lives and I know that the communities are trying to stay strong.”

(David Pe (left) and his colleagues together with some students at NYU Shanghai)

So he decided to show the power of unity by making a video of encouragement for Shanghai, a place he regards as home. “This month is actually my 8th year anniversary in Shanghai,” he added. “I have never felt worried about my health and hope that we will all get through together soon.”

“We are Not Strangers” is the theme song of the Reality Show, a musical show performed every fall on NYU’s three campuses to help first year students navigate the various challenges of university life, particularly at NYU. The cast consists of sophomores who have spent the summer after freshman year writing and rehearsing the show.

Different from previous years, the choir came earlier and was organized in a different context. NYU Shanghai’s Reality Show alumni were enthusiastic about reuniting virtually to record the song. “For some, they have not performed the song in years, so a few students volunteered to record themselves singing it so that everyone could practice,” said David.

Working on this project with David is Meizhi Ng, a graduate of NYU Shanghai Class 2017. She also performed in this “We Are Not Strangers” virtual choir video. As she said, what this project and song tries to accomplish is to show “we are all in this together, and that we are a global family.” Because of COVID-19, “we are separated, scared and distant. But also, because of it, we have been given an opportunity to be connected, be brave, grow, be open and be healed. All the more, we should stand together and support those in Wuhan, Hubei, and all the other places in China.”

What is the first thing you want to do after the virus is overcome? As Meizhi said, she would like to meet with friends, play sports with them and have a meal together. “Right now, we are all spread across the world so we only have WeChat to connect us. But I will want to see them in person, hug them, and enjoy their presence without fear.”

Tian Tian Wedgwood Young, a British girl who has grown up in China, also took part in the choir. She came back to Shanghai from a holiday in Norway 3 weeks ago, when the outbreak was serious. “This reminds me a lot of the SARS outbreak in 2003. I was only young at the time, but I was living in Beijing with my family and remember how much disruption it brought to everyone’s lives.” But she believes China has learned a lot from the SARS outbreak and is doing all it can to combat this one. “The people of Wuhan are sacrificing a lot right now to contain the virus and for that I think people all around the world should be grateful.”

“The first thing I will be doing is eating a 煎饼果子 (Jian Bing Guo Zi), and then spending the rest of the week eating in all my favorite restaurants,” said Tian Tian.

Students said they drew strength and inspiration from singing and reacquainting themselves with the lyrics of the song. “This disaster is another tough test of our humanity, it also reminds us again of the importance of love and care, to converse and listen, to respect and reflect, and most importantly right now, to not lose faith and carry on,” said Casillas Sun, a graduate of Class 2017.

Apart from the virtual choir project, students at NYU Shanghai have launched a fundraising campaign to support relief efforts in the city of Wuhan and Hubei province. Donations were made to a variety of organizations supporting the Wuhan community, including the One Foundation, Shanghai Community Fund, and GlobalGiving.

(Video and photos provided by NYU Shanghai)