Meiyi (Victoria) Liu is an energetic freshman international student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. But what many of her peers may not know is that she has an incredible passion for education and runs a company changing the lives of rural Chinese children one summer at a time. Braden Croy, program manager of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, sat down with Victoria to discuss the business, its mission, and where she sees the company headed over the new few years.
Braden also explores how other students can get involved with the program and the open volunteer position Bridge has for a summer intern.
Can you tell us a little about Bridge and what the business does?
Bridge is a volunteer program that teaches elementary subjects to rural Chinese children each summer in Hangzhou. These children are different from children in cities or other families we have heard about, we call them “little migratory birds” because once summer time arrives, they “migrate” to the cities where their parents are working and stay with them for the whole vacation. The wide economic gap in China causes many people from rural areas to seek jobs and opportunities in large cities. Unfortunately these dedicated parents are unable to bring their children and must leave them at home.
How have you seen these kids’ lives change because of Bridge?
We’ve worked with about 100 kids total between the summer of 2017 and 2018. I’ve seen these kids’ lives change in incredible ways. For example, to help a group of students who were having tremendous difficulty learning the A,B,Cs, I developed a fun game with little tips like memorizing the English pronunciation with funny Chinese words that pronounce it similarly. The kids instantly shouted, I get it!” and from that point forward this group of students started picking up whole words and you could feel the new confidence they had in their abilities. I saw the purest heart from those children, and I also saw their strong curiosity towards the outside world, truly inspiring.
Bridge seems to have an incredible mission, how did you get involved and why?
To trace back to the root of how I got involved with Bridge, I learned from my partner, who was also my best friend in high school, that she was starting a program teaching elementary subjects to Chinese rural children in the summer of 2017. Education is a career that she intended to pursue and something I am extremely passionate about, so we took the resources and opportunity provided by Hangzhou’s local government to launch the first program in the summer of 2017. From that summer onwards, I became obsessed with helping to bridge the many diverse versions of the world and thus came up with the idea of connecting students from the U.S. with the little migratory birds.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur while studying abroad?
Although my intended career and biggest interest is as a filmmaker rather than teacher, I am willing to devote most of my time to this program because of the children. However, the hardest challenge being an international entrepreneur is communication across a 12 hour time difference; I’m working with partners both here at SU and in Hangzhou. The opportunities that I’ve had at SU though have made things so much easier, whether it’s working with the Blackstone LaunchPad or marketing our program through Handshake and the many campus programs in the School of Ed. One of the keys to our success has been talking with everyone and trying to use as many of the campus resources as possible.
Where do you see Bridge going this summer and who are you looking to join the company?
This year our main focus has been to connect with Syracuse students. As we move to an international volunteer model, we want to include students from around the country in our summer programs. Our summer 2019 applications are open through May 10th so we’re still looking for motivated volunteers to join us. From my experience the goal of volunteering is really to plant a seed in these kids’ little minds— anything that they find fascinating within these two weeks may end up changing their entire lives. What we do isn’t about leading them to a “right” direction; instead, we are leading them to their own direction.
Where can people find more information about you and Bridge?
People can find us around campus via our flyers or stop me in the hallways anytime. Or if people would like to read more, they can check us out online at https://bridge-program-in-china.squarespace.com.