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  •             Building a Project Pengyou Chapter has been daunting. The Chinese interest community pales in comparison to many other cultural awareness interest groups, and often times populations of students that would be fascinated and truly motivated by our movement escape our reach. The vicissitudes of university life often get in the way: Heavy workloads, financial stress, and immense pressures to find a post-graduate niche.            My Chapter, the UC Berkeley Chapter (which for the rest of this article shall be dubbed the Golden Bear Chapter) has had its ups and downs. Despite a strong kick-off, a dynamic leadership team, and having the fortune of sending representatives to the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit in Cambridge this past October, our attendance flagged. Our nadir came less than two weeks ago. Our Study Abroad Mentoring Program kickoff – an event where young students were to be paired with study abroad alumni to help guide them in the process – lacked mentees. Only mentors showed, despite weeks of face-to-face advertising with hundreds of people.             Our team was gutted.             For the Golden Bear Chapter, success required failure. There was no complaining. No one hung their head. Thanks to the strength and persistence of the mentors in attendance, the team launched into a highly critical discourse on strategy. Newer members brought considerable insight. Old members reflected on past successes and failures. After an hour and a half of intense discussion we came to an amazingly significant realization: Project Pengyou literally means Project Friend          What were we thinking? Our formerly highly programmatic approach seems silly in retrospect. Without abandoning the programs, we shifted our emphasis to building friendships. We bonded as a team and resolved to bring our own friends to our next meeting. We would tell stories of how our lives were impacted by the bridge building process to inspire and motivate those closest to us. Our 友. The fortunes of the Golden Bear Chapter changed overnight. New members brought vibrancy and energy. By Pengyou Day, we hit a Grand Slam with our #TakeABao campaign and US-China Jeopardy Night.           The easiest people to inspire in our lives are those who are dearest to us. Our 友. They are the great allies of any grassroots movement, and we’re fortunate to be eponymously reminded of this, daily. This has become the Golden Bear Chapter’s modus operandi: Friendships first. Whether this meant taking friends to coffee shops and giving an elevator pitch, mentioning Project Pengyou in passing, or sharing stories of self with buddies, this has been our means of building capacity. It changed the fortunes of the chapter.          For chapters that were in our position two weeks ago, stay strong. Friendships overcome.                 

  • Amazing, amazing event today on Sproul. I see a lot of people have added themselves to the chapter roster here. Please like our facebook page!!! We’re going to have a meeting soon – are any of you folks current students or alums showing support? We really want to get everyone involved!!!

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