For many of us, attending college felt like life was opening up for the first time. Suddenly, anything was possible. It was on. That’s how it went down for Yu Ling Wu. Her experience was like a whole hallway full of doors unlocking, with potential waiting behind each one.
Back in high school, Wu remembers hearing someone say that “the farther you go, the faster you grow.” That axiom rung true for her immediately. She set her sights on New York City — a long way from her San Francisco home. Her ticket to New York was acceptance into The New School, a university in Greenwich Village.
What drew Yu Ling Wu to The New School was the promise of an open world of study with just enough rigidity to help her grow intellectually. She longed for a academic freedom, where the only thing holding her back creatively and academically was her imagination.
“I needed somewhere that was going to challenge me,” Wu says. “A place that was going to overwhelm me. I needed a place that was going to kick my ass.”
Wu enrolled at The New School with a desire to walk a path less traveled, and that’s exactly what she did. At The New School, she was allowed to build her own academic experience, based on her interest in life, the arts, and performance. It was a bit like following a recipe in the kitchen — Wu was able to take known ingredients and meld them into something wholly unique.
Ultimately, Wu decided on a combination of two degrees, called BAFA. One is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Integrated Design at Parsons School of Design and the other is a Bachelor of Arts in Theater at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts (both part of The New School). One part of her focus was performance-based, while the other part was design-focused — she got it all: time both on stage and in the studio.
Although the disciplines seem far apart, Wu immediately found a commonality.
“Humor is a huge thread throughout all of my work,” she says. “My goal is to use humor to make things accessible to communities and people in general.”
Wu’s attendance at The New School gave rise to voices she didn’t know she had in her. She writes, directs, and acts in solo performances that make people laugh about issues facing our society, while weaving in positive messaging. Or, as Wu puts it, “Humor is the vehicle for someone to communicate and understand an issue.”
The academic structure and the openness of Wu’ college experience have given her a wide range of options. Meanwhile, being in NYC has opened up alternative ways to augment her performance education. She quickly signed up for classes at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade to hone her joke-telling skills and stage presence — all of which enriched her scholastic experience.
It’s the sort of symbiosis that she loves. Everything conspires toward her overarching goals.
Success isn’t all just about killing on stage for Wu. There’s a deeper more collaborative spirit that comes along with life at The New School that is amplified by living in New York. Her classes offer a rigorous foundational experience and it’s her responsibility to go out and apply that experience in the real world.
“You’re bound to find people who have similar interests,” Wu explains. “I don’t even have to look for them, it’s kind of like they’re just… there.”
Wu tells us that when she puts a project together, she’ll go for a walk around the university and listen to students practicing musical instruments and talking through projects and watching them work. When she hears or sees something she really digs, it’s all about striking up a conversation and seeing if they’d like to work together on a project — or what Wu calls, “instant collaboration.”
That instant collaboration is what led to Wu’s latest project, a short booklet called ‘How The Fuck To Vote (in several complicated and horribly articulated practical steps).’ She considers it a collaboration born from the community of both The New School and New York City — a city she describes as “so vocal and so political.”
Leading up to and especially after 2016’s general election, Wu kept hearing the same frustrating conversations happening again and again. She’d hear friends ask, “What is a delegate versus a superdelegate?” or “How do the mechanisms of the voting process actually work?” In most cases, Wu shared these questions. So she chose to take action.
“It was all of my training, all of the reading, everything that I’ve learned, and also who I’d become as a person that made this project,” Wu says.
The booklet goes into deep and humorous detail about how the presidential cycle functions from start to finish, what delegates are, and how representatives get into power. There are handy sections about the political vernacular that’s used in the process — a vernacular that’s often a massive barrier to the politically uninitiated and, as Wu points out often “makes young people feel like they’re being talked down to.”
The whole book concludes with a section called “Voting Forreal Now.” Wu offers a step-by-step guide from registering to vote and actually going to a polling center or using an absentee ballot to cast your vote. It’s insightful, educational, funny, and relevant.
“I think it’s hard to grasp that you’re able to make something that doesn’t conform to everyone’s idea of a specific major,” Wu says. She tells us she’s been asked far too many times, “What on earth are you going to do with a design and theater major in the real world?”
Wu knows the answer and she never hesitates to share. She represents the new era of creatives who are emerging from The New School. “Dude, I know plenty of things. I’m taking video game classes and book arts classes. I’m dynamic. I’m a curveball.”
Wu talks about how The New School helps her chase her true passions. “I realize what my personality is. I’m not a nine to five job kind of a person. I can’t be stuck in an office. I need something that will allow me my own freedom and allow me space to grow.”
Yu Ling Wu found the space at The New School in New York City to pursue a unique BAFA. It was perfect for her and fit who she is. Now, her growth is our gain, as a community. Especially, if she keeps making booklets as awesome as ‘How The Fuck To Vote.’