In light of multiple racial incidents on campus in 2019, WeMedia Lab, an international student-run new media organization that thrived on the WeChat platform, has gained a great deal of attention since then. Intending to break the boundary of stereotypical fellow internationals’ images, Aorui Pi ’21 initiated WeRound to encourage students to talk about the problem.
Pi is an advertising major student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications with minors in French and psychology at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in a strict parenting household in China. She witnessed the deeply ingrained misogynistic attitudes and racism in a society that contradicted the education she has been exposed to.
With the passion of empowering people with a simple compelling message, Pi joined six different student organizations during her undergraduate career at Syracuse University. Before joining WeMedia Lab, she had already gained knowledge of the daily administration of student publications. She adopted the methodology to build and shape current WeMedia Lab content as the editor-in-chief. “Many international students are afraid of speak up about their distress due to the language barrier and culture differences. I want to do as much as I can to change that image. International students deserve a voice,” Pi said.
Pi had a hard time discussing her identity crisis and peer pressure as an international person in the United States. “We are not alone. In this mixed-culture community, international students consist of 20% of the SU student body, and we have abundant resources at SU. Why not talk about it?” Pi decided to help students with the same struggles. She was deeply moved when her professor told them to do what was right for themselves during the #Notagainsu movement. “We are humans first, then students,” she said.
The pandemic causes anxiety among the internationals and forced many people to adopt a new lifestyle. “The dilemma of being international in the U.S. scared many students. I’ve seen friends have eight canceled flight tickets in hand worried about their families every day.” Pi and fellow WeMedia Lab members had a heated conversation discussing the worthiness of studying abroad during the turbulence and attempted to find a solution for students who took a gap year. Inspired by Jubilee, an interactive YouTube channel that enables people to share opinions on multiple topics, Pi pitched the idea of an open roundtable and encouraged students to listen to people with different backgrounds and experiences.
WeRound covers five sections: student life, family, career, identity, and social issues. Participants have talked about post-graduation life, gap year, Chinese New Year tradition, body dysmorphia, and Stop Asian Hate. Pi wants to create a safe space for marginalized students and help them find peace by sharing their experiences. On top of that, Pi said, “Inviting and hearing people outside our age group also remedies the anxiety we might have.”
On March 16, eight Asian women’s death exacerbated issues for people around the world. With the help from the Associate Director of Operation and Outreach at Center for International Services, Wei Gao, Pi, her team quickly coordinated another session of roundtable confronting the Anti-Asian hatred. “Hearing all the stories from peers, professors, and counselors from the Barnes Center, I realized we made the right decision,” Pi said.
With the influence of current affairs, Pi found her passion for journalism and is excited about her post-graduation journey of living in New York City. She attended her first protest when she participated in the Newhouse NYC program during the Spring semester. “The experience of studying abroad gives me a new perspective of viewing the world and media. Seeing both sides of a story firmed my belief of becoming a responsible storyteller,” Pi said to the fellow international students, “There was no secret for maximizing your college journey. Read emails carefully and find resources that will help you along the way will be my recommendation.”
Story by Aorui Pi, LaunchPad Global Media Fellow; photos supplied