Several members of the international education community took time out of their New Year celebrations to speak with News from the PIE on their hopes for what the new year will bring for the sector, after two tumultuous years living through a pandemic.
“A lot of unfortunate things happened in the Year of the Ox, and the pandemic has not gone away,” said David Kang, director of HoHe Education Group in Shenzhen, China. “But finally, the new year is here.”
He shared his hope that, like the tiger himself, the new year would be “full of vitality and bravery”.
Similar to the traditions that take place on January 1 each year, many who observe the Lunar New Year set positive intentions for the year.
Skyla Zhang is an international graduate student studying education at Columbia University. For the past 12 years, she has worked in the United States every Lunar New Year. Now back in China, Zhang is studying remotely and enjoying the week off during the nationally recognized vacation.
“Although I was unable to return to my hometown of Beijing to celebrate with my family due to the Covid control and prevention policy, I enjoyed the seven-day vacation in Guangdong Province.”
Based in Boston, Haohao Guo, director of JNC Study Abroad and an expert on China-US academic exchanges, also referred to the impact of the pandemic on family celebrations and educational programs.
“This is the third Lunar New Year that Chinese people around the world are asked not to return home”
“This is the third Lunar New Year that Chinese people around the world are asked not to return home for their most important annual family reunion,” he said.
Guo spoke of polarized views that often exacerbate “deep cultural and systemic differences between West and East.” However, he believes that international education is an effective platform to “bring the world together by enhancing mutual understanding and strengthening cultural ties”.
Events around the world range from the University of Exeter in the UK encouraging staff and students to wear something red to celebrate, and cultural events such as the Australian National University featuring instrumental performances, calligraphy, origami and traditional food, or the upcoming Chinese International Students Association spring festival at Northeastern University in the United States.
In the Year of the Tiger, Guo’s wish is for the world to “finally come together to make a synchronized plan to move freely again,” adding, “May studying abroad be one of the first steps!”
The tiger is often seen as a symbol of bravery, wisdom and strength – characteristics frequently associated with international students. Zhang spoke enthusiastically about her upcoming graduation from Columbia and said she hoped to return to the United States for her ceremony in May.
“May the Year of the Tiger inspire me to be my boldest and bravest self!” she added.