Supporting Silver School Students from China

Elaine Hu is a joyful and warm second-year MSW student at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. She is a co-leader of the Chinese Student Support Group (CSSG), where she helps plan activities for students from China. Between field learning, classes, and for some students, jobs and being parents, it is hard for social work students to make "real friends," Hu stated.

This is also the case for students from China, but with added issues. Students are thousands of miles away from home, from family and friends, where they must learn to navigate a new country and master a second language. And then there is writing papers and trying to keep up with professors' expectations. For example, Hu noted how many students get scammed searching for an apartment, or move from place to place looking for somewhere safe and stable to live. Getting oriented can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. At the CSSG, students from China meet together to provide support, and most importantly, friendship during their graduate school career.

On Friday, September 28, students at CSSG celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival by eating mooncake. "We get eight days off from school back in China," stated Hong Pan MSW '13, waiting for the CSSG meeting to start. "My mom asked me if I wanted her to mail me mooncake!"

Meeting at CSSG brings a piece of the holiday to New York. Students also talk about field, exchange advice on professors, and "hang out." Sometimes they play card games, such as San Guo Sha, popular in China.

When Hu was a first year student, she said, she was hesitant to attend the Friday meetings after a long and tiring week, but she is glad that she did. Last year, professors and supervisors from field placements agencies spoke at their meetings. "We talk about our careers, too," said Hu, and students share ideas on the different areas of social work they can specialize.

"Before CSSG, there was no support group for students from China," said Hu, who noted that CSSG is a group operation. She received a lot of her support last year from former CSSG leaders, Joe Lubashevsky, MSW '12, and Grace Liu, MSW '12, in planning activities. Students Yi Yang, MSW '13, and Lin Tang, MSW '13, are also co-leaders that help plan activities. Last year, the group's efforts were recognized with the 2012 Silver Student Award for outstanding student program.

"New York is good, there is karaoke, Chinese food," Hu giggled. The students at CSSG enjoy the group's tributes to home while at NYU. So far, this semester CSSG held a welcome event at the beginning of September and hosted a talk by Venerable Dr. Yiga, a Buddhist nun and scholar in the field of women leadership. Early next semester, students at CSSG will enjoy the Spring Festival. Though no one has to commit to coming each week, they usually have a good turn out for meetings. It is difficult for students to keep in touch once back in China, because they are spread out in different provinces, but it is helpful to have others that can relate to their experience while at NYU.

"The second year has been better," Hu smiled. "Much better."