This semester welcomed 88 students from New York and Abu Dhabi, all with different motivations for choosing Shanghai as their study away site. 

For Joy Cheng NYU Steinhardt ’25 and Juls Xi NYU CAS ’25, Shanghai presented an opportunity to connect with their cultural backgrounds. Joy’s family is from Guangzhou and living in China was something she had always wanted to experience. Juls, being adopted from China, wanted to immerse themselves in Chinese language and culture.  

Joshua Isaac NYUAD ’25 chose Shanghai to experience a new and dynamic culture. Compared to New York, he thought NYU Shanghai would provide the most opportunities and vibrant student life. 

What drew Danial Tajwer NYUAD ’24 and Ryan Mai NYU Gallatin ’26 to Shanghai was their search for a global focus away from their home campuses. As a History major, Danial pointed out that the strength of Abu Dhabi classes lay in South Asia and the Muslim World and expressed his interest in developing a perspective on East Asia. Ryan was also motivated by his major, Technocultural Aesthetic Criticism, and hoped to gain an understanding of China’s geopolitical and economic dynamics beyond Western perceptions. 

Prior to their arrival in China, study away students expected NYU Shanghai to be a cohesive campus seamlessly integrated into the city. 

For New York students, having a campus brought unexpected benefits. In New York, Ryan often had to schedule specific times to meet with his friends. “I think having a campus as opposed to what we’re used to in New York changes the dynamic of what is means to build community,” he explained. 

Joy mirrored this statement. “My interactions are much more natural,” she said, “I feel like in New York you have to really make an effort to see someone.” 

Joshua, who came from a closed campus, found NYU Shanghai to be more open to English speakers. The resemblence of NYU Shanghai to Abu Dhabi was unexpected for Danial, but also a pleasant surprise as he began to feel that he was a part of the community quite quickly. 

New York students have also found the Shanghai campus to be a breath of fresh air compared to New York’s “hustle culture.” Joy acknowledged that the location of the campus has made daily life more relaxed and toned down. As for Juls, they have enjoyed the “slower pace” of the campus.

While study away students have had a mostly positive experience at NYU Shanghai, the location of the campus has been a main area of disappointment. 

Juls noted that since Qiantan is a developing area, there’s not much to do around the campus. “The walkability and accessibility to things, from the campus, is definitely not meeting my expectation,” they said. At the New York campus, Juls could go to different cafés every day or easily walk to convenience stores within five minutes, while in Shanghai they found themselves frequently ordering delivery for both food and daily necessities. 

 Joy mentioned that the downside of NYU Shanghai is that she doesn’t feel very integrated into the city. Last semester at NYU London, Joy often explored the city in her free time since the campus location made it easy to walk to different parts. In comparison, “because of how isolated the Shanghai campus is, I don’t really get that,” she said, “I have to purposely plan my weekends to actually see the city.”  

Ryan shared the same perspective and commented on how his days also felt monotonous. “During the week and even weekends, I often feel that I’m very much in school mode. It becomes more of an activity to go out as we’re not directly integrated in the heart of the city,” he said. 

With the Abu Dhabi campus located on its own island and removed from the city center, Joshua was expecting a shift from his home campus. Instead, he felt that NYU Shanghai was only “a little different from Abu Dhabi.” In Danial’s Chinese classes at Abu Dhabi, his professors “were really pumping up the Qiantan campus and all the cool things nearby.” As a result, he was expecting NYU Shanghai to be well blended into the city.  

Ending with positives, a memorable experience for Joy has been going on citywalks. She’s been especially enjoying the Anfu Road citywalk. For Joshua, every day in Shanghai has been memorable. “I love exploring the city and I like the perspective that students from NYU Shanghai have on different topics,” he said. 

Attending the ICA gallery opening was a standout experience for Juls. They expressed their appreciation for the existence of such artistic spaces, particularly given their inability to explore the art exhibitions within the New York campus, which remained closed during the pandemic.

Danial traveled during Golden Week, which left him with lasting impressions. “I was really overwhelmed with the hospitability that I’ve encountered in China,” he said, “Everywhere we went, people just went out of their way to help us and make sure we were okay. I was really touched by that.”

Ryan also regarded Golden Week as a valuable experience. “See[ing] the country in a new light, it reinforces the fact that for all students, but especially study away students, we’re constantly learning outside the classroom,” he remarked. To Ryan, studying away was a reminder to continue to be open to new ideas.