NYU Shanghai: The New Portal

Global students start to arrive at NYU Shanghai. Photo courtesy of China Daily.

Written by Lauren Tai

The 2014 fall semester marks the first year that NYU Shanghai, NYU’s third degree-granting campus after NYU Abu Dhabi, is using its own academic facilities. The NYU Shanghai study-away site was hosted at East China Normal University (ECNU) for the past seven years, where NYU students joined those from other universities – all using ECNU as a host campus. However, after three years of construction, the NYU Shanghai building finally opened its own academic doors to its students this fall.

NYU Shanghai made plenty of preparations. In March 2011, NYU Shanghai conceived the idea of creating its own campus space. In 2012, the Chinese Ministry of Education officially approved the establishment of NYU Shanghai, granting it recognition as an American liberal arts education institution in China. The idea was to create a portal campus system that would allow students the opportunity to easily turn their NYU education into a global experience. Before this development, the only students that could participate in NYU Shanghai were those that were studying away. Now, with NYU Shanghai being its own degree-granting establishment, the gateway opened up to portal students as well. The school maintains a 51% ratio of Chinese national students to international students.

One unique aspect of NYU Shanghai portal students is that they are required to study abroad for at least one semester with a maximum of three semesters away. In addition, all students studying at the NYU Shanghai site are required to take Chinese language courses and to become proficient. Though NYU Shanghai branched out and created its own campus space, it is still in partnership with ECNU, where many of the graduate research facilities are located.

The student life is similar to that of NYU. Assistant Dean of Students David Pe said, “In creating NYU Shanghai, we made sure to deliver the basic functional services NYU has.” This includes services such as Health & Wellness and Career Centers.

“This way, students don’t have to spend the first few weeks worrying about transition issues. They will always have the basic NYU resources they need, and can spend their time branching out and exploring their surroundings instead,” said Pe.

Pe said that students themselves drive much of the student life. NYU Shanghai currently already has 25 student-run clubs. Students can also create clubs if they do not see one that matches their interests. Pe said that the student government has been guiding the culture of the university so far. This year, NYU Shanghai will be hosting its own TEDx, Hackathon and Bar Camp, showcasing the various ways in which students are innovating and pushing boundaries.

Upon reflecting on the experience thus far, Stern sophomore Julie Chen says, “NYU Shanghai feels as if we’re studying at an actual Chinese college, not as if we are isolated in our own bubble.” Chen enjoys how integrated the study-abroad experience has been so far and how this aspect has given her the opportunity to discover the Chinese culture herself.

Pe sees great prospects for the NYU Shanghai campus as it continues to grow, allowing for a greater number of students. He said, “You can’t understand the world, unless you see the world,” and he encourages students to take advantage of the study-away opportunities offered at NYU.

NYU Shanghai continues to gauge student interests and make improvements accordingly. NYU Shanghai dorms are still under construction and will likely be open in fall 2015. The housing unit will be for both study-away students and portal students, fostering a greater integration between the two types of students.  NYU Shanghai will also be offering summer courses that would allow for an equal study-away experience over a shorter summer stay.

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