Photo courtesy of Daria Karaulova

Students explore, study beyond the GNU

Photo courtesy of Daria Karaulova An NYU portal site can be found on nearly every continent of the globe; simply choosing between the 14 different GNU ...

Apr 20, 2013

Photo courtesy of Daria Karaulova
An NYU portal site can be found on nearly every continent of the globe; simply choosing between the 14 different GNU sites can be challenging as students plan their semesters abroad. And those 14 sites are only a few of the options. Sail down the Caribbean while studying biology and conduct research? Live amongst the Nepali community to gain an understanding of eastern religions? Return to your roots in the country of your grandparents? With the option of studying at a non-GNU site through a program that is unaffiliated with NYU, the possibilities are endless.
Junior and biology major Bethany Kolody is currently enrolled in Sea Education Association, a unique program that combines preliminary courses taught on land with a six-week stint of learning at sea. Kolody explained that she is currently in Boston taking advanced ocean policy and marine biology as well as designing a research project to be completed during her time at sea. After one month of classes on shore, she will set sail from St. Croix to Bermuda and back up to the Woods Hole Campus.
“This is my first semester away from Abu Dhabi,” Kolody said. “I decided on this program — aside from the obvious reason that you get to do molecular biology on a tall ship in the high seas — because it offers a lot of the intensive science classes that are not available in the rest of the global network, and [it] will give me a better idea of whether or not I will want to specialize in marine biology as I go forward.”
In addition to studying courses in the Marine Biodiversity and Conservation track, Kolody said she is learning the more technical aspects of sailing during her month in Boston.
“We're also learning nautical science on shore,” Kolody explained. “At sea the students will be divided into crews that will be manning the sails and navigating, taking data for the whole group, cooking, cleaning or [sleeping].”
“I think that the practical aspect of daily navigation and hard discipline will leave me with some life lessons to take away from the experience,” Kolody continued.
Lucas Hansen, a junior who spent a semester in Nepal, wholeheartedly echoed the belief that studying abroad in an unusual setting can shift one’s views on life.
“I was living in circumstances that some people live through their whole lives,” Hansen said. He spent the semester living with a Nepali family and described how they lived in a mud-brick house, with no running water and that he had to walk for an hour to get to class everyday. At one point, he contracted dysentery from drinking unclean water.
“[Those are] just things that lots of people live with and I think that it’s so easy to forget that,” Hansen said. “The first weeks were hard and there were a couple of moments throughout the program — the first one was probably about nine days into it. I hadn’t taken a shower in nine days and [I realized] I’m not going to be able to take one for another seven days and after that it’s going to be like one a week. And it’s going to be with a bucket and it’s going to be cold water.”
Hansen laughed as he enthusiastically told his stories and, despite the challenges he described, it was apparent that he thoroughly his experience.
“Lots of people have asked me how I did it,” Hansen continued. “I don’t think that it’s super well-known exactly what you have to do.” The first steps to applying to a non–GNU site is fairly similar to applying to any other site. A preliminary application is made through NYUAD to study away. If the site is through another university or program, an application may also be necessary to be accepted.
Carol Brandt, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Global Education and Outreach, explained the next steps in the process as far as NYUAD is concerned.
“If a student’s academic program requires or would uniquely benefit from instruction not available in the GNU, he or she may petition to attend an alternative program,” Brandt explained. “In their petition, students need to identify what the benefits of studying at an alternative site are to them for developing as a scholar and in relation to their particular academic program.”
In addition to making a compelling case of why the study away site is vital, the applicant must submit a course list equivalency review, in order to obtain academic credit at NYUAD. The applicant must also obtain approval from their faculty mentor and dean. The reasons listed by the handful of students who have been granted the chance to study at a non-GNU site vary. A recurring theme, however, is the language immersion and cultural opportunities that come from studying in a foreign university.
Junior Paige Hasebe is currently studying at Nagoya University in Japan. Learning Japanese was one of the motivations behind her study-abroad choice.
“I am half Japanese and it has been my dream to learn Japanese and live in Japan so that I can communicate with my grandparents and understand some of my heritage,” she said.
In addition to physics courses taught in English that count towards her major, Hasebe takes three hours of intensive language classes each day.
“It's a lot more of a cultural immersion here than in Abu Dhabi since there are so few foreigners here and very few people speak English,” Hasebe said.
Sophomore Matthew French applied to spend Spring 2014 in Brazil, at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Rio de Janeiro, in the hopes of learning Portuguese.
“It’s mostly to learn the language,” French explained. “And to get introduced to the society, the business there, how everything works because I think that in the future I could work in that region.”
French spent two J-Terms at the NYU campus in Buenos Aires, as well as interning in Argentina last summer. He will be studying in Madrid next semester, an NYU portal site, and feels that learning Portuguese will be the next step for him.
“I was looking specifically for somewhere in Brazil,” French said. “I want, in the future, to work in Latin America and I don’t know Portuguese. I feel like Brazil is important for that.”
Hansen knows well the trials and triumphs of being thrown in the deep-end of learning a language during a semester away. He received part of his language credit from his homestay, where his host family would grade him on his efforts and abilities.
“Nepal was just an entirely different immersion experience,” Hansen said. “I needed Nepali to get around everyday, I needed it to communicate with my family, I had to use it if I was happy or sad or sick … In the class, out of the class, you’re constantly working on the new language.”
“You have moments when you’re feeling on top of the world,” Hansen explained. “There would be days when I communicated so well with family, I bought groceries by myself —these little things, but that can make you feel so proud of yourself.
“It’s hard, for sure,” Hansen continued, “but I think that’s part of the rewarding experience. I would have moments when I thought, ‘what am I doing here?’ But it never lasted, and each time I think I rebounded back stronger.”
Clare Hennig is features editor. Email her at
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