YCA Alumni | We’re Reaching for Each Other

“Treasured in life are bosom friends; wherever you meet, there is warmth”—Sa Tianxi

Thanks to the efforts of the Student Affairs Office and our Alumni Secretary Team, YCA alumni around the globe met and joyed last autumn. They organized several alumni events, nourishing the YCA family with love and warmth.

Let’s meet across the land, across the sea

As Pu Songling, the famous novelist of the Qing dynasty, said, “The best thing in life is to have friends. The best thing to do with friends is to meet and chat.” Over the fall semester, YCA alumni met, chatted, and joyed around the globe.

Casey Wang (USA), secretary of YCA Alumni North America and pursuing her J.D. at Harvard University, met other YCA alumni in a Boston Chinese restaurant to celebrate the 2022 Mid-Autumn Festival.

On September 24, Tian Meng, alumni secretary from the 1st Cohort, planned a meet-up in London, and YCA alumni from the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th Cohorts had a good time recalling their days at the Academy.

Alumni from the 4th Cohort met in Vienna on October 22, thanks to the efforts of another alumni secretary, Federico Verly (Argentina). While some were based in the city pursuing their doctoral degrees, others were on business trips or vacationing there. They recounted their exciting experiences at the Academy and updated one another on their post-YCA life paths and aspirations.

On November 5, our alumni gathered in Shanghai for a meet-up organized by the alumni secretary Zhou Tianyao from the 1st Cohort. Tianyao gave tips for dealing with work pressures, and newly-graduated fellows of the 6th Cohort discussed their career plans in the Yangtze River Delta. They recalled the good old days at the Academy and exchanged ideas of work and life.

Zhang Junlan: I’m from the 1st Cohort. It’s great to see my fellow students from the 6th Cohort graduate and enjoy their work and life. I’m proud to be a YCAer. It feels like it was only yesterday when I studied at the Academy with my teachers and fellow students. It was a time to be cherished and remembered. And how quickly time has elapsed!

Alumni secretary Akihiro Yoneda (Japan) threw a party for the alumni in Beijing and our first-year students. They enjoyed themselves in the traditional courtyard and typical scene of the Beijing hutong.

Alumni secretary Fu Duanling met other alumni in Beijing on November 12. They had a good feast and sang the song “Friends”. Every member from all cohorts at the gathering talked happily about their YCA days and current life.

Miao Shujin: I’m happy to meet my fellow YCAers years after my graduation. It’s touching and inspiring to sit and chat – about life, work, and dreams. I’m grateful to know you all at the Academy.

Emily Conrad (USA): Beijing is ever-changing. But certain things remain unchanged, like Yenching Academy as our home and haven. I met about 20 fellow graduates at the get-together. We’re not from the same cohort, but we’re all YCAers. And we’re family. We alumni in Beijing look forward to meeting more fellow graduates here in Beijing.

YCA alumni in Africa had reunions between October and December. At the end of October, Santana Muthoni (Kenya), the secretary of YCA Alumni Africa and other alumni living in Kenya attended a cultural exchange event held by China’s embassy in Nairobi. Joel Odata (Uganda), another secretary of YCA Alumni Africa, hosted an alumni reunion in Johannesburg. Muthoni and Odata jointly organized another alumni reunion at Nairobi’s Chinatown on December 3.

Wanjiru Wambugu (Kenya): Thanks to the reunion, I saw how young people of my age think about Chinese culture. I wouldn’t have known so many interesting, passionate people hadn’t I been to the Academy.

Harriet Kariuki (Kenya): I’m happy to meet so many old and new friends from YCA. We had a great Chinese dinner. We laughed. We recalled our great days in China. So many thanks to the Academy for the gifts; I have worn my YCA hoodie almost every day. I’m looking forward to the next reunion.

Our alumni in Hong Kong, London, Oxford, Deli, and Seoul also had small parties prepared by alumni secretaries Yu Songqi, Liu Ruiwen, and Tian Meng (all from China), Steven Yue Heng Yang (Singapore), Vedika Kedia (India), Milind Taneja (India), and Claudine Ukubereyimfura (Rwanda).

Let’s talk; despite time, despite space

Alumni secretaries Claudine Ukubereyimfura (Rwanda) and Calvin Lewis Spanbauer (USA) co-established the YCA Alumni Reading Group in June 2022. The group has had monthly meetings since then and talked about six books related to China. In December, the Group met online again for Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City. The January discussion of 2023 focused on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. The two organizers hope more alumni will join the group and participate in the exciting discussions.

On September 30, Yan Zhaoyi, a 2019 Yenching Scholar from China and Ph.D. student in ethnomusicology at the University of Oxford, and Merle Maria Kartscher (Germany), a 2020 Yenching Scholar and Ph.D. student in history at Harvard University, were invited to an online event, sharing their experience in how to prepare a strong Ph.D. application. The discussion centered on how to write satisfactory application essays, contact professors and potential supervisors, choose research tracks and design a reasonable application schedule.

Secretaries of YCA Alumni Europe José Izquierdo (Spain), Liu Ruiwen, and Niklas Schönherr (Germany) volunteered to register the social media account, YCA Alumni Europe, in the second half of 2022, offering YCA alumni in Europe have a new channel of communication and information sharing. The account is now followed by nearly 200 alumni and has columns like YCA News, Alumni Events, YCA Alumni Series, and Alumni Updates. The three alumni secretaries will maintain the social media account in 2023.

Alumni secretaries, as a team, as a family

The YCA Alumni Secretary Team has, with their love for the Academy, worked hard on alumni activities since its formation at the end of May 2022. Our alumni have re-contacted and reconnected with one another’s hearts and minds.

With the Academy’s support, the Alumni Secretary Team has organized over 20 alumni meet-ups and reunions in and outside China, joined by Yenching Alumni from Australia, Germany, France, South Korea, Kenya, the United States, South Africa, Singapore, India, the United Kingdom and China. The alumni secretaries were excited to receive the Academy’s thank-you gifts. Over the past months, our alumni secretaries have forged stronger relationships and friendships, and they will continue to collaborate and contribute more in the coming year. Yenching alumni secretaries are a team; they are family.

Savannah Billman (USA): I went to Europe last autumn, and as an alumni secretary, I reconnected with alumni from the 5th Cohort there, from Dublin to Stockholm. It was exciting and warm to see my schoolmates after quite a while. We last saw each other in the autumn of 2019. What cherishable memories we have at Jingyuan! I was heartened by their perseverance and creativity. I’m now firmer whatever my future choice will be.

Federico Verly (Argentina): I feel as if I’m back at Yenching Academy when I’m working with my fellow alumni secretaries. We have many difficulties, of course. But we’ve managed to keep in touch as a family by meeting in person or online. We’ve worked as a team and family. And our fellow alumni have felt inspired.

Santana Muthoni (Kenya): It was exciting to be the secretary of YCA Alumni Africa and organize the first-ever alumni reunion in Africa. I’m grateful to YCA for its support in enabling us to meet again and recall our good old days in China. I expect to prepare more activities like this for my YCA alumni in and outside Africa.

“Stay close, mind and heart; Feel closer, near and far.”

Yenching Academy and Yenching Alumni are working in concert for a better Yenching Family.

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