The semester abroad is something every Stern student hears of well before we actually enter university. It is a crucial aspect of the Stern experience, giving us exposure to the global business world.
For some students, studying abroad is associated with taking cool classes, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and getting a ton of stamps in your passport. But it’s not always a cakewalk for everyone. Classes can still be challenging at the global locations and adjusting to a new country and culture takes time.
I have spoken with students who are studying abroad in London, Prague, and Shanghai and professors in NYU’s global campuses. I have also drawn on my own experience abroad as well to try and paint a more accurate picture of what Sternies can expect from a semester abroad.
A friend who had been abroad two years ago told me that the only global location to consider going to is Prague. The academics in London were simply too difficult; Florence was okay but could get boring; and it was not easy to navigate around the language barrier in Shanghai.
A semester abroad changes you. The exposure to another culture forces you to re-evaluate your worldview and develop as a person. It may be easier for students to adjust to living in a country that shares a similar culture to America’s, but exploring an entirely alien culture is equally challenging as it is rewarding. NYU global locations make the effort to give students a flavor of the country’s lifestyle, whether it be taking students in Shanghai on field trips or watching a theater performance on the West End.
My own experience, as well as that of other students in London, has been a memorable and enjoyable one. The similarity of cultures and the lack of a language barrier makes it easier to navigate the city. While classes are rigorous, there is enough time to enjoy the city and to travel. Students spend most weekends traveling and spending evenings in pubs. Yet, somehow most feel more focused and on top of the world in London than in New York. Maybe the guilt of not working through the weekends prompts students to work harder during the week.
The students in Prague have a similar experience as well. Being in the center of Europe, they can travel with ease most weekends. The small class sizes also allows them to get to know their classmates (and potential travel companions). The lack of club and recruitment activities allows students to focus more on classes and the professors are illustrious with interesting stories to share.
Shanghai, of course, is another world. Being in a country as large as China, with Thailand and Vietnam only a short flight away, the opportunities to travel are endless. However, the language barrier makes it harder and more challenging to enjoy the experience. Basic things like ordering food become impossible without a basic grasp of Mandarin and it is nearly impossible to venture out alone. Field trips help students understand local culture and are a critical component of many classes. But many students consider the campus a bubble that is difficult to leave. Moreover, since NYU may not own the accommodations in global locations, fixing any issues that come up may take longer. However, the consensus remains that living in a country as massive and diverse as China is very rewarding.
Other popular study abroad locations like Madrid and Paris offer similar experiences as well. There are minor issues that come up, (like students in Madrid do not have the option of taking any 2-credit courses), but OGS and NYU staff play an active role in solving these issues as they come up.
I guess that all students can do is learn about the local culture before committing to the study abroad location. There will always be differences in food, dress, mannerisms and may be even social liberties and progress and one should be aware of them before deciding to spend an eighth of their college career there. The reality of the semester abroad may surprise you, shock you and even challenge you but more often than not students don’t ever regret it and achieve everything that they expect to achieve.
A special thanks to Joe Meyer, Ingrid Adams, Makena Naegele, Niti Parekh, Kohtaro Kosugiyama, and Dr. Dirk Nitzsche, Lecturer, NYU London for sharing their inputs on the study abroad experience.