Syracuse University Magazine

Yingyi Wu

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Celebrating Chinese Culture

Yingyi Wu '11 realizes the important reach of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) at Syracuse University. As CSSA president for the past two years, Wu did all she could to ensure new students from China are prepared for life in Syracuse and have opportunities to come together to celebrate and share their culture. Through the CSSA, she's met with Syracuse-bound students and their families in Shanghai and offered advice on everything from appropriate winter wear to necessary cooking utensils. She takes pride in the CSSA's extensive Internet forum and listserv network, which help students connect with one another. She also remembers the challenge of coordinating the group's 2007 Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese harvest celebration also known as the Moon Festival. "I didn't know a lot of the people at that time and it was the first big event I ever organized," says Wu, the youngest elected president in CSSA history. "I called a lot of people myself, and one week I used up 1,500 minutes on my cell phone."  

Since then, Wu has smoothed out many a detail, gathering and organizing information, building the association's network of volunteers, and helping shape CSSA's role in assisting Chinese students. The group—which serves upwards of 1,000 Chinese students, including ones at SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical University—reaches out to incoming students and their families through a series of informational meetings in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, and provides a newcomers' handbook with basic information about SU and the Central New York area. Last year, the group welcomed nearly 400 new students, arranging airport pickups and temporary housing and hosting a picnic at Jamesville Beach Park. Through its network, students connect for a variety of services and activities, including ride sharing, shopping excursions, and trips to other cities. "Our volunteers are very important," Wu says. "If we didn't have volunteers, we wouldn't be able to provide these services."

Wu's leadership abilities have blossomed through her CSSA work and should serve her well as she pursues a career in the business world. An accounting major with a finance minor at the Whitman School of Management, she credits her mother for encouraging her to study abroad. Wu grew up in Suzhou, a city in the eastern province of Jiangsu renowned for its classical gardens. A competitive distance runner and basketball player in high school, Wu first visited the United States as an exchange student in 2001 and has traveled to such places as Disneyland and Las Vegas. Amid her studies, which include plans for graduate school and earning a certified public accountant license, she still likes to run in her free time. "I always run at Onondaga Lake Park," she says. "I love that place."

It's a good tip for joggers—one Wu would gladly share with newcomers. As the organization grows, it continues to develop new offerings. Working with CSSA, SU Library established a dedicated space for Chinese language books and magazines. Group members interact with the local Chinese community, including such organizations as the Central New York Chinese School, sharing invitations to events. For Wu, it's important for the CSSA to host such gatherings as the Moon Festival and the Spring Festival, which marks the start of the Chinese New Year, because she knows what they mean to Chinese students thousands of miles from home and family. "This kind of event makes them feel close together," Wu says. "As I told them, although we don't have our families with us, we have our friends, classmates, and roommates, and together we can celebrate this festival so we don't feel lonely and stay at home."  —Jay Cox

Photo by Susan Kahn