Amy DeCillis sitting and wearing a mask.
Amy DeCillis with a friend. They are both wearing face masks.

In the early months of COVID-19, Amy DeCillis was completing her senior year at NYU Shanghai. As anxiety and concern around the world intensified, many of her friends and classmates left campus to return home. Amy, however, decided to stay and focus on finding opportunity. “A lot of people in the United States were losing their jobs,” says Amy. She was then facing the prospect of starting her career during a global recession. “I realized I had more connections in China than anywhere else,” she says. So she decided to stay and try to begin her career in China.

Amy DeCillis with her soccer team.

Bringing Hands-On Education to Students of All Ages

Her decision paid off. She fielded multiple job offers in China and ultimately accepted one from a connection she’d made through an adult soccer league. Last October, Amy started working as a business development associate in the education department at WildChina Education. Itʼs an award-winning luxury sustainable travel company. And its mission dovetails wonderfully with her desire to educate people about the country where she was born—Amy was adopted from China as a baby, then grew up mostly in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company arranges academic trips for foreign and Chinese students of all ages. “WildChina’s goal is to help people understand China through hands-on learning and education,” she explains.

Solidarity and a New Understanding of Race

Amy’s decision to stay and start her career in China following graduation is on par with others she’s made in her life. In high school she studied abroad for a year in Beijing with School Year Abroad. And during her junior year at NYU Shanghai, she spent a semester each at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Tel Aviv. When the pandemic struck, she says, she missed her family. But she felt a sense of “loyalty to and solidarity with” Shanghai and the people she’d met there.

She was also horrified by what she saw on social media in the early days of the pandemic: an eruption of Sinophobic comments about the virus and Chinese people. In response, she reworked her senior Capstone Project to be an autoethnography about her experiences as a Chinese American during the pandemic. “It’s the first time I truly understood the consequences of being a foreigner who passes as a local Chinese person,” she says.

Amy DeCillis with a large group of friends.

Prepared—And Never Daunted

Despite the inherent challenges of starting her career in China during a global crisis, Amy hasn’t been daunted. NYU Shanghai more than prepared her for a career in educational tourism. She studied with classmates from around the world and learned flexibility in the face of uncertainty. She worked as an orientation ambassador for two years and interviewed countless people for projects in her media courses. And of course, she interned at RADII, a media platform dedicated to sharing stories from China. “I like making connections,” Amy says. “And learning in such a diverse environment was so helpful. It’s something that will serve me for the rest of my life.”