• All first-year NYU Shanghai students participate in a day of service with Project OutReach.
  • Activities include visiting nursing homes, supporting local schools’ summer programs, and volunteering at an animal shelter.
  • Project OutReach connects new students with the Shanghai community while also helping them develop relationships with one another.
An NYU student engaging with a young student at a local school.

For students who study at NYU Shanghai, arriving on campus can be both exciting and nerve-racking. But there’s a way they can get to know the city they will call home while serving the community around them: Project OutReach.

Serving the Shanghai Community

Led by the Dean’s Service Corps (DSC), Project OutReach is a key component of Orientation Week, which helps students prepare for the transition to college life. Project OutReach gives all first-year students a chance to serve their new community from day one.

“Students are an important part of community life,” says Zoe Zhang, community engagement and outreach coordinator at NYU Shanghai. “They make valuable contributions by building good relationships with the community and helping to solve problems and social issues.”

In a typical year for Project OutReach, students divide into groups and spend a day participating in community-centric activities. For example, students might visit a nursing home, plog (jog while picking up litter), support local schools’ summer programs, or volunteer at an animal shelter. “Project OutReach aims to address social issues, promote civic engagement, and familiarize first-year students with the local community. It helps to encourage a sense of belonging and responsibility,” explains Zhang.

Adapting to World Events

In the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, Project OutReach adapted its approach while keeping the focus on service. In 2020 and 2021, students participated in virtual nursing home and animal shelter visits. At the same time, they attended service-learning events that combined classroom learning with volunteer experiences. Additionally, they met with partner nonprofits at a charity booth day.

Then, in 2022, the DSC hosted its first-ever Charity Bazaar. “We invited nine different nonprofits and foundations to our campus,” explains Xiaoqing “Sunny” Xu, a rising sophomore planning to major in Humanities and Social Science. “Each organization had its own booth where they could introduce themselves and show our community what they do.” What’s more, the event included merchandise, games, and raffle prizes. “NYU Shanghai community members interacted with different organizations and signed up to become volunteers,” adds Sunny.

NYU Shanghai students smiling and cheering in front of the Oriental Pearl Tower.

Building Connections

In addition to connecting with the wider Shanghai community, Project OutReach participants get to know their fellow students and familiarize themselves with the campus and city around them. “For international students, coming to live in a new country can be quite challenging. So Project OutReach gives first-year students a way to connect,” says Cynthia Xiao, a rising junior Biology major. For the Charity Bazaar, Cynthia led the design of promotional posters and banners. “It’s a great way for students to get familiar with and assimilate into the NYU Shanghai community,” she shares.

Returning to In-Person Opportunities

The DSC is excited for the return of in-person Project OutReach activities this fall. Projects will include beach cleanups, nursing home visits, and more. “We expect to help our new students get to know Shanghai while giving back to the community in a meaningful and engaging way,” says Zhang.

Whatever Project OutReach activities students join, they’ll have the chance to bond, have fun, and give back. “It’s a great opportunity for us to learn more about our society, bring our community together, raise people’s awareness of various issues, and spread love,” concludes Sunny.

Project OutReach, New York City

Project OutReach takes place at NYU’s campus in New York City, too. Here, first-year students can spend a full week taking part in community service, reflection sessions, and educational outings before their orientation. Learn more!

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Project OutReach