Times of challenge make us stronger

Dear undergraduate and postgraduate students, colleagues, parents and friends:

When I spent time last semester wandering through the beautiful empty campus filled with cherry blossoms and drizzling rain, I missed the hustle and bustle of the campus: the teachers chatting with students; the exciting speeches on campus. Today, we see the arrival of more than 5,500 new students, who bring with them renewed vitality to XJTLU. While the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging globally, we start an extraordinary new academic year today. On behalf of the teachers, students, and staff of XJTLU, I welcome our new students!

I know this year's college entrance examination season has been particularly long and difficult for high school graduates. Due to the pandemic, students had to prepare for the exam at home without face-to-face guidance from their teachers. I know this change makes the already difficult exam even more challenging. I know the graduate students were also struggling in decision to study in China or oversea during the application. But I have good news: Your admission letter is a declaration of your victory. In addition, your acceptance is a testimony of your self-improvement, self-discipline and rational decision. I believe this special event in your life has not only improved your perseverance, but also inspired a fighting spirit and courage in you.

Your gleaming eyes remind me of the time of my college entrance examination. I was born in a small village at the foot of the Qinling Mountains. Universities and colleges were closed during the Cultural Revolution. After high school, I spent four years as a peasant in the People’s Commune. Back then, information was hard to find and books were hard to come by. Resources were very limited. But my heart was full of desire for knowledge. Fortunately, college entrance examinations resumed in the autumn of 1977. It was like fresh rain after a long drought. At that time, struggling against the elements, I was still building up farmland on wild benchland at the foot of the Qinling Mountains. I prepared for the exam under the dim light of an oil lamp with a tired aching body, hoping against hope that I could emerge from the crowd. My yearning to attend college was as strong as ever. In the end, the hard work paid off. Life treated me well, and I got my life-changing admission letter.

Despite different circumstances, we all have experienced the long and arduous period running up to that important exam. And now we have one thing in common: instead of being bitter or angry about these challenges, we are guided by our aspirations and have never given up hope. We all learned to adapt and persevere in adversity. We have created opportunities during times of crisis. The greatest enemy we face in our lives is not other people or our environment. Our greatest adversary is ourselves. We must not give up. We must not quit. Socrates once said: "Adversity and hardship are the highest institutions of learning to cultivate one's personality."

Through this once-in-a-century pandemic that is still raging globally, we have learned so much about ourselves. When we should be uniting and cooperating with others, some people will make the choice to attack or accuse. Some people will discriminate against others. When things are normal, everyone acts mature and rational. But when we face challenges, each of us needs to decide how we respond. Crises reflect human nature and society, uncertainties of the future, and the future needs for talent. Dear students, I believe this pandemic has given you a deep understanding of the diversified world in the digital age. You know the complexity of globalisation. You know it is XJTLU’s intention to cultivate "global citizens." The future of China and the world will always be filled with obstacles. I hope that you, as both a student in China and a global citizen, will grow rapidly during your time at XJTLU. May you find the tools to reshape the world and make it better with your wisdom and your hands, as I said in my commencement speech this year.

From the moment you are enrolled, the University regards you as young adults. We hope that you will learn to be independent and take responsibility for your decisions. May you tap into your interests and learn to grow within XJTLU's international learning environment. Over the years, countless XJTLU students have explored infinite possibilities here. Then they stepped into the world and became leaders in their respective fields. Sadly, there have also been students who have encountered problems in their studies. Some students were unable to graduate on time. Some students were required to leave the University, which is a pity. How can you avoid these problems? I’ve noticed a pattern with the students who struggle. Some of these individuals have a strained relationship with their families. Some find it difficult to adapt to a research-led, English-only education model. And the truth is, some students lack self-discipline. So, as the new academic year starts, I would like to give you some suggestions. When you encounter challenges, do not complain about your parents, your teachers, your school and society. Instead, you should examine yourself. Reflect and find a way to face problems positively. Try turning difficulties into opportunities to grow. Think about how to use these opportunities. Use the resources of XJTLU and you will grow in ways you cannot imagine.

First, turn parents into your allies. As a new college student, you will likely be proud and ready and eager to embrace your long-awaited freedom. However, your parents are used to protecting you under their wings. They will want to take care of everything and make sure you are on track. Know they only want to help. Some of you may want to turn away from their help by unfriending your parents in your WeChat, for example. Some of you still enjoy the level of care from your parents as usual. While it is true that parents should think about how they interact with you as a college student, do not close the doors of communication. Instead talk with them. You can win the trust of your parents through your outstanding performance, and proper communication. Not only will you gain your independence and freedom, your parents will be able to enjoy their own lives without worrying about you.

Parents tell me all the time how amazed they are with how much students change after enrolment. It’s like you have suddenly grown up. For example, many students faced the pandemic and travel restrictions more calmly than their parents. Students managed to form groups, obtain plane tickets, and reroute travel plans to go home. Some students even brought back young students who were stranded oversea, overcoming all kinds of hardships and showing great maturity. I see the satisfaction and pride of parents from the transformation that XJTLU has brought to the lives of their children. I hope you will learn to talk to your parents as adults. Then you will win more trust, freedom, and support from your parents during your rapid growth here in XJTLU.

Second, turn teachers into your mentors. The secret to XJTLU's outstanding educational achievements lies in its philosophy. We challenge the traditional positioning of "imparting knowledge". Instead, we place "helping students grow up healthily" at the core of our education.

Because you are accustomed to exam-oriented education, some of you may complain that there is too much free time and not enough classroom teaching. You may find that there are too many open questions in exams. However, with the rapid development of the Internet and artificial intelligence, knowledge acquisition has become ever more convenient. Indoctrination-based education will only harm a student’s interest and creativity. It will slow the cultivation of your talent. Therefore, XJTLU advocates research-led education. Teachers are no longer the indoctrinators of knowledge. Rather, teachers are mentors of learning. They are here to stimulate you. They will ask you inspiring questions, and guide you as you seek information. Teachers will help you to integrate knowledge with solving problems. And during this process, students will learn to communicate, cooperate, express themselves, execute and innovate. Therefore, you must abandon your old habit of passive waiting as soon as possible. Adopt an active and research-led learning approach. Then you will grow into accomplished and internationally competitive global citizens.

Third, use XJTLU’s ecology to nurture your development. Compared with most traditional universities, XJTLU is very free and open. Some parents even say that XJTLU is too lenient. If you were treated as children in the past, XJTLU may indeed seem too lenient. But you are treated as adults here. We do not micromanage you. We are committed to creating an educational ecosystem to nourish the growth of students. Just like everything grows under the sun and rain, we want you to grow. A good ecosystem is always changing. There will even be some unexpected pleasant surprises. Hence, XJTLU has built a "five-star" education model which combines the essence of Eastern and Western wisdom, culture and education. XJTLU features an international learning environment and a comprehensive support network. XJTLU gives every student room for exploration while providing them with necessary support. You must open your mind, stretch your limbs, and fully absorb the resources and nutrients in the XJTLU ecology. For example, use the four-in-one support system consisting of buddy, academic advisors, growth consultants, and external mentors. You can also take advantage of our one-stop student service centre, psychological counselling centre, and employment development centre. There are academic networks and opportunities both at home and abroad. Our alumni have proven with their outstanding achievements that as long as you dare to dream, XJTLU will give you unlimited possibilities. Don't waste these precious resources that are readily available to you. You do not want to graduate with any regrets.

Fourth, use modern technology to expand your capabilities. As Internet natives, you can skilfully use digital intelligence and other tools. However, technology is a double-edged sword. Technology can help you achieve your goals efficiently or lead you astray. For example, some individuals get addicted to online games. I believe you have all experienced the value of modern technology. It can greatly assist your learning and development, as you’ve experienced during the pandemic. Leverage modern technology and tools to expand your life. It is worth mentioning that the XJTLU Learning Mall puts the world’s best online resources and providers under one roof. We offer in-depth integration of on-campus and off-campus education. In addition, we offer online and onsite education as well as industry and academic education. We help students pursue personalised, interest-oriented lifelong learning, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Last but not least, keep enhancing your mindset and exploring infinite opportunities. As suggested by XJTLU’s motto "Light and Wings", we should keep improving our ideas. We should keep thinking and taking action. Then we will keep upgrading our mindset.

As you are faced with Covid-19, are you at a loss because of the ubiquitous risks? Are you agitated by uncertainty and confusion? In today's increasingly uncertain, ambiguous, complex and changing (UACC) world, we must upgrade our mindset to face various challenges rationally. We are all facing various paradigm shifts. To become a global player today, you need to build a complex mindset that adapts to the times. In my speech on Teachers’ Day in 2018, I called on the people of XJTLU to switch to the "HeXie mindset" to adapt to the UACC world. The HeXie mindset can help us recognise and control our complex lives in the UACC environment. We must maintain a balance amid diversity and stay awake amidst changes. We must create a career platform that includes a win-win ecology. These approaches will ultimately lead to continuous innovation and breakthroughs. I suggest that you create your own HeXie mindset to see a bigger world and to be able to look further into the future.

Qizi Ju, an XJTLU student and a music lover who went to Imperial College London for further studies, said: “XJTLU is like a home, a place you can rely on, a place to rest, and most importantly, a place to pursue your ideals”. Dear students, XJTLU gives you the opportunity to dream and act. I hope you can all grasp that opportunity and soar into the sky and pursue your dream with the confidence that you have done your best. Enjoy your struggle, because it will lead to your progress and also your growth.

Photo by Yanyin Ni

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