GAO Jinshuang: From a dream-chaser to a dream-sharer

2021-03-04 Global Communications

[Message from the editor: GAO Jinshuang (’20, energy and environmental systems engineering) is one of the main characters featured in the newly released university video. GAO, once a village boy, got inspired by ZJU’s student volunteers and now is helping others as he was once helped. Let’s explore his story of dream chasing.]

When GAO Jinshuang first met the student summer social practice team from Zhejiang University

eight years ago, he didn’t know his life would change from then on.


From the tranquil valley in Yunnan province to the modern city of Hangzhou, many things in GAO Jinshuang's life have changed immensely. But he always remembers the summer in 2013, when a group of Zhejiang University (ZJU) students arrived for volunteer teaching at his middle school. Born and raised in Tengchong, a mountainous region in southwest China, the village boy had very limited access to the outside world. "In fact, only a few middle schoolers in my village attended high school. Not to mention going to a university," recalled GAO. These ZJU students had opened a window for him. It was not until the summer social practice team came to teach in his school that he got to know Zhejiang University and its community.

It's hard to tell if a short-term volunteer program could influence the life of every local student. But for GAO, the impact was far-reaching: A dream to study at Zhejiang University was planted in his heart. "They not only shared knowledge, but offered us a glimpse of what life could be like in a university on the other side of the country."

GAO really went for it. Countless days and nights of hard work earned him a letter of admission from Zhejiang University, making him the first-ever student in his village to go to the university. "That was the first time that I set foot outside Tengchong. I took an accommodation train and spent 33 hours on it. But it was all worth it," said GAO with a big smile. "I was thrilled at the first sight of the campus of Zhejiang University. I was so proud that I made it."

And the University soon led him to what once inspired him. GAO found volunteerism and community service popular among his peers at ZJU. "So many people around me, classmates, senior students, and even my teachers talked about their volunteer experiences, and I just joined them."


Some of GAO's volunteer experiences as an undergraduate

From being a volunteer tour guide for visitors to the West Lake tourist attraction to teaching the local community's elderly about smartphone usage, GAO clocked more than five hundred hours of social service during his college years. In doing so, he has grown from a mere participant of volunteer work to a leader of such initiatives.

GAO has been thinking of giving back to his hometown. In 2019, he led a team to do volunteer teaching in a rural primary school in Yunnan province. In early 2020, he participated in the epidemic prevention and control work in his hometown—Xinhua Village as a volunteer taking temperature of passers-by at a check point. "The conditions were poor in the countryside; we had to sleep in a roadside make-shift hut on the night shift and had instant noodles for meals. But the thought of contributing to the battle against COVID-19 in my hometown brought me a huge sense of accomplishment."

When GAO graduated from ZJU in 2020, he chose to join the ZJU volunteer teaching group at Xinhua Wanquan Primary School in Jingdong, Yunnan province, which is part of the China Youth Volunteers Poverty-alleviation Relay Project. The group has delivered more than 2,500 class periods for 500 students in the past half year, and organized various sports and recreational activities for them. "Volunteer teaching is a labor of love. I hope that with our help, these children will dream big," said XU Jiani ('20, human geography and planning), another member of the group.

Since 1999, near 300 ZJU graduates have joined the ZJU volunteer teaching group

to serve one year at the 20 designated schools in southwest China.

These ZJU graduates also helped with local poverty alleviation through field research, fundraising and distribution of donations. "I think ideal volunteering should go beyond material help; rather it should bring positive energy into people's lives," For GAO, volunteering is not a pathway to making one's resume stand out but a lifelong commitment. "Our contributions are very limited, but we try our best to boost people's confidence in their own ability to turn their dreams into reality. It will be really awesome if what we do help people set their aspirations."



ZJU student volunteers help with local education and poverty alleviation in Yunnan 

Contributors: GAO Jinshuang, XU Jiani, CHEN Youyun, BAI Wenxuan & FANG Fumin

Writer: HE Jiawen

Edited by: CHEN Weiying TIAN Minjie