Class of 2014
Studying day and night, Xiaomei Wu scored the highest exam marks in her class of 9,000 students — a stunning achievement by any measure. But her singular accomplishment is all the more remarkable because she aced her tests while running a student magazine that had no support from her school. "In my school, they tried to discourage outside activities so we could focus on our studies," she says. "We didn't have spare time. Still, I found a way to do it. There was no time for a nap."
As the president of the magazine, Utopia, Xiaomei was responsible not only for assigning and editing dozens of articles — some of them in other languages — but also for convincing the local businesses of her native town of Chengdu to advertise in the fledgling publication. While each of the 5,000 magazines printed every semester sold for 5 yuan, it cost 7 yuan to produce. "We couldn't publish the magazine without finding enough sponsors," she says. "It was really difficult." Going door to door, Xiaomei found local restaurants and dance schools willing to buy advertising. She was the president of Utopia for two years.
A strong work ethic and a taste for exploration were the two traits that led her to Abu Dhabi, a city that to her is the furthest thing away from staying in China for university. "I wanted to go to a totally new place, do something that others do not do," she says, citing the Chinese proverb, "To touch and feel is better than to learn through books." Until now, most of her travel has been spent in spare moments on Google Earth, where she would "visit" cities across the world and daydream about traveling there in person one day. She wants to study Arabic and the local culture to better understand how the Middle East fits into the world stage. Through language and meeting people in the Arab world, she hopes to "see how they see."
While she says she is "open to all possibilities" after her time in Abu Dhabi, Xiaomei sees herself working for the United Nations, where she can use her growing knowledge of the world and travel experiences to help countries overcome their differences. To do this, she plans to study history and math — her strongest subjects.
Xiaomei has embarked on her journey to Abu Dhabi despite some classmates telling her she would not succeed, just like the time they said she was too "normal" to earn the honor of being named a flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and as a torch bearer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, both of which she achieved. "Everyone told me I couldn't do it, but you have to try," she says. "And I made it."