Interview with Shanshan (Susan) Hu
Born in Shanghai, Shanshan (Susan) Hu excelled in her studies winning multiple awards and scholarships in academics thoughout High School and college. In 2005 she won the third prize of Miss World University, Eastern West China and placed in the top 8 in the Finals.
In 2006 she won the Championship of Shanghai Tourism Ambassador Contest (Miss Shanghai) during her sophomore year. Her title gave her the opportunity to represent her country at many events including the Okayama Airport Festival, IBLAC 2007 Shanghai, The Shanghai International Tourism Trade Fair and others. She also took part in Shanghai Fashion week and appeared on numerous television shows.
After graduation, Susan decided to go on study abroad. She moved to Japan and spent two years at Keio University majoring in Media and Governance. After two years of traveling around Japan, learning the language and the culture, as well as getting her first master’s degree, she came to the states hoping to learn more and see more. She enrolled in, and has since graduated from, the Indiana University School of Journalism Masters Program.
She has worked as on-air talent for WFHB, Indiana as a reporter, interviewer and producer. She also works as a model in her free time and has built up an impressive portfolio.
Susan, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about your childhood growing up in Shanghai?
Growing up in Shanghai was a truly amazing experience. I feel lucky that I was born in this wonderful city and grew up with it. During my 22 years in the city, I witness the development of this metropolitan. In Shanghai, you can always expect something exciting and new everyday. There’re many opportunities waiting for you around the corner. What I liked most is how multi-cultural Shanghai is. You can see different performances from traditional Chinese drama to the latest modern western dance. It taught me to be as open-minded as I can be.
You did very well in school and initially studied Environmental Science and Engineering. What made you change your interests to Journalism?
I’ve always been passionate about media and journalism. Being a journalist has been my dream for a long time. I’ve also been very interested in environmental protection. I was the secretary of the Shanghai Youth Environmental Science Amateur Association for two years. So when applying for college, I decided to learn more about environment so that I can be able to protect it on a higher level. But after spending four years in an engineering school, with a minor in news and broadcast, I realized my true interest still lies in journalism and being a journalist will enable me to spread the true story about environment, as well as other issues, on a better platform.
How did you come to take part in the Miss Shanghai pageant?
I heard if I got into the final round of the contest I would be able to travel to Australia for the shooting. I’d never been there and would love to go. So I handed in the application. Unfortunately it was just a rumor, I still haven’t visited Australia yet. It might be my next destination.
For those in the US that may not know what the Miss Shanghai contest entails, what did you have to do in the competition?
It is a contest hosted by the Shanghai Municipal Government. The purpose of the contest is to find a public image that presents the essentials of the city. So it is not a pure beauty pageant. They tested us for both our intelligence as well as performances.
When I took part in the contest, I had to pass two rounds of selection before get into the final 32. Then the 32 candidates were gathered in a training camp. We had 9 round of eliminatory contest on TV weekly. Every week we were competing about different talents and knowledges, some contestants left and some stayed.
During the contest did you expect to win and how did you feel when they announced you had won?
I didn’t expect myself to go that far in the contest. I took part in the contest so that I could travel to Australia, which never happened. So I was quite relaxed at the final show. When they announced I was the new Miss Shanghai. It felt… amazing. I saw another door opened to me.
The next year you did quite a bit of PR work as a representative of Shanghai. Can you tell us some of your most memorable events?
I attended a lot of events during the two years. But the most memorable one wasn’t one of the glamours events. I remember once we were doing a shooting for a music video in a rural area in China. When we got there, the whole village basically stopped their life for a week. All they did was watch us wherever we went because no one had seen anything like that before. It was a beautiful place. I still remember the scene there. One day when we were on a break, I asked a villager what he did everyday. He told me he didn’t have much to do. Every morning he woke up and waited for the evening then he went to bed and that was another day. I was shocked by that. I also talked to them about their education. Sadly not many people could afford to go to school. That was the moment I realized how many stories needed to be told and let the rest of the world know.
When you moved to Japan, how was your experience there? Did you have difficulty with the language or the culture?
When I first got to Japan, I couldn’t speak a single sentence in Japanese. I got admitted to a master’s program that’s completely conducted in English. I didn’t think it would be a problem. Fortunately, I lived in an international dormitory when I first got there. I met lots of friends from all over the world and they all spoke English. That made my first few months away from home a lot easier.
About Japanese culture, it is quite similar to where I’m from. Yet it is so different. I had a lot of discussions with my friends back in Japan and during the two years I was there I now have a better understanding of their culture.
Did you experience culture shock when you came to the US? What do you think about America now that you have lived here awhile.
Not really. I had been to UCLA for a summer session back in college. That was one of the best summers in my life. So I had some idea how an American campus would be but when I first got to Indiana University in Bloomington, I still had a lot of surprises. Bloomington is a college town, everyone here is quite young and open-minded. I’ve met friends from everywhere and I’ve learnt a lot from them.
I like the American culture. I like living here and I think I fit in here. I get to speak my mind and I feel free to pursue my dreams. That’s the best.
As a journalist, what do you hope to do now that you have graduated?
I would like to have more chances to talk to more people and cover more events. I would like to hear more stories from different voices and show a complete picture to my audience. I’m interested in both international coverage and local reporting. I believe journalism is about people, about providing people the real information and I would like to be the one who presents the facts to them.
I know you have a particular interest in documentaries. What types of subject matter would you like to cover?
Not specifically. I have the idea of doing a kind of travel-log/story-telling documentary. It is more about the real life of people. I’m just a way to record and deliver their story.
As a professional who has done many interviews, how am I doing so far?
You are doing great for an online format! I wish we could do face-to-face or at least phone interview so that we could have more interactions but this has been fun too!!
You also have modeled quite a bit. Is this something you enjoy and would like to continue to do?
Definitely. I was only 12 or 13 when I did my first magazine modeling. A friend of my father was a fashion editor and she thought I had the potential. I enjoy every single shoot as well as the runway. Especially photo shoots I guess. It’s a way of interaction and a way of telling stories. I learn from the different photographers I work with every time. They also helped me to discover a side of me that I didn’t know. It’s surprising and fun! I’m still doing modeling part-time now.
Tell us a little about yourself outside of school and work. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Like most students or post-graduates, I spend lots of time with my friends. I love dancing, all kinds of dancing. I started ballet dancing when I was 4 but unfortunately this dream is not going to come true in this life. I love music, too. Different music sets me to different moods. Also I enjoy watching movies or going out to nature. I’m always open to anything new in life. I try to make it more exciting.
Where do you hope to be and what would you like to be doing five years from now?
I hope within five years, I will be able to launch my journalism or PR related career. I would love to be in anywhere in the world. Wherever I could hear and tell stories and make a difference.
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