Gaby CHAN is a Singaporean Bai Xian Scholar currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in public administration at Zhejiang University.  Her study abroad experience has shown her the value of cross-cultural bonds and has taught her that looking beyond differences is the first step to effecting change in the world.

Hungry for perspective and adventure, Gaby began her studies at Zhejiang University with the hope of acquiring a more global and macroscopic view of public security and policy, an area she had been working in for five years.  Little did she know that one of her biggest takeaways would be personally experiencing the power of friendship to bridge people from vastly different backgrounds.

“My time at Zhejiang University has allowed me to see friendship, something we often take for granted, from a new point of view,” says Gaby, who goes on to recall one small but significant event.  “We were celebrating the birthday of a South Korean classmate one day at the dorm, and a North Korean student happened to walk by.  After wishing our friend a happy birthday, he left, but later extended a small gift to our friend through a mutual acquaintance.  The gift was a notebook, which was inscribed with that day’s date. We later realized that our friend’s birthday coincided with the day that the North and South Korean leaders met and shook hands on the demilitarized zone.  I was struck not by the gift, nor the political significance of the day, but by this student’s bold gesture of good will towards an otherwise unlikely ally.”

Reflecting back on the occasion, Gaby realized that boundaries and cultural norms often can, but should not, work to separate people.  “While we cannot choose where we come from, we can choose between friendship and alienation, and shape the kind of world we want to live in,” says Gaby.  “We can effect change in our world – one friendship at a time.”

After graduation, Gaby plans to continue her work in public security.  She looks forward to applying the knowledge and experiences she has garnered from her time abroad to further her long-term career goals, and hopes to eventually pursue her research interests in social resilience and non-traditional security.