Every student has different reasons for choosing a particular study abroad site. NYU Shanghai is especially popular among those who want to pursue their studies and future careers in economics and finance.

Exploring academic centers across the GNU

Every student has different reasons for choosing a particular study abroad site. NYU Shanghai is especially popular among those who want to pursue ...

Apr 20, 2013

By Jourdan Enriquez/The Gazelle


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Every student has different reasons for choosing a particular study abroad site. NYU Shanghai is especially popular among those who want to pursue their studies and future careers in economics and finance.
“China has always fascinated me in terms of how it achieved rapid economic growth over the last couple of years, and I really enjoy learning the language. Therefore spending some time in China was a natural path for me,” said junior student Peter Ndichu.
NYU Shanghai is a unique opportunity to experience Chinese culture and polish up Chinese language skills by interacting with the local community.
“Coming to Shanghai with a goal to strengthen my Chinese, I learned that many locals are supportive in assistance to practice the language,” said junior student Dmitriy Tretyakov.
However, some NYUAD students find this study abroad significantly less challenging academically.
“I guess the rigor of classes, apart from Chinese, was a little disappointing,” Ndichu said.
Shanghai is a rapidly developing cosmopolitan city with a large expatriate population, which makes the social interactions more diverse and relatively easy for those who don’t speak the language.
“The social life in Shanghai is robust and educative, whether it takes place in an expatriate community or among the Chinese,” Tretyakov said.
Peter Ndichu finds that going for a semester in Shanghai with the knowledge of at least the basics of the Chinese culture will beneficially pay back during the study abroad experience.
“I would have wished to know a little bit more about the culture of China,” Ndichu said. “It took me a while to get used to things in China and I feel like I would have integrated more easily with the local community had I known what to expect beforehand.”
There is also an opportunity to experience the working environment of this country by doing internships.
“I was fortunate to be exposed to the professional part of living in Shanghai whilst my internship at TEDx, where I gained a valuable network of inspiring individuals,” Tretyakov said.
Good for majors: Economics, history, finance, chinese.
When to go: “Spring is great if you want to continue learning language or doing an internship in the summer,” Ndichu said.
Fun fact: NYU Shanghai is the newest portal campus to offer undergraduate opportunities starting Fall 2013.


Photo courtesy of Stig Nygaard.
In the heart of West Africa, NYU Accra offers a unique opportunity for students to live and study in the capital and most populous city of Ghana. A city rich in history and culture, Accra is an exciting location in the midst of economic growth and transformation.
For NYUAD junior Jasmine Boutros, the Ghana experience was transformative because of the local culture. “Everyone was so friendly,” she said. “At the same time, they've lived things and seen things that I couldn't possibly relate to, so they have much wisdom to impart.”
With approximately 45 students each semester, the Accra program makes for small classes and plenty of discussion, said NYUAD junior David Bassini.
Despite the small size of the program, NYU in Accra provides a quality academic program. “The classes were really good and they have a wider variety of classes than what I expected,” he said.
Boutros gave similarly positive reviews for Accra’s academic program, noting that a former mayor of Accra and a prominent female writer from sub-Saharan Africa were among the professors teaching at NYU Accra when she was there.
The program also offers students the chance to take classes at the University of Ghana Legon. Students can take a range of different course offerings taught by “experts in topics such as Developmental Economics or Public Health,” according to Bassini. However, Boutros said that courses at the University of Ghana vary.
“I would not recommend taking classes at the local university for my major [economics], but I'd definitely say that Accra is an excellent place for anyone studying visual arts, music, or creative writing,” she said.
The program offers weekend and day trips to different regions around the country, which Bassini cites as one of the best parts of his experience in Ghana last semester. To him, the city felt normal and livable. “It is relatively cheap to eat and it is cheap to go out,” he said.
For students considering a semester in Ghana, Boutros strongly recommends finding an internship. “There are unparalleled opportunities to help out in the community,” she said. “People are so appreciative and it is such a gratifying experience.”
Challenges at the Accra site include the problem of mosquitos, so Bassini recommends bringing a lot of mosquito repellent. He also warns fellow exercise enthusiasts, “the gym is really far away from the dorms.” Boutros added, “I wish I could have fully understood what a reality bucket baths are.”
A semester in Ghana offers a chance to explore and learn in a city that is so different to the rest of the GNU sites. But according to Boutros, a semester in Ghana is not something you can fully prepare for. “Accra is just one of those places that you figure out as you go along,” said Boutros.
Good for majors: Visual arts, music, creative writing.
When to go: Spring. “It's not quite as hot, but to be honest it's pretty warm year round,” said Boutros.
Fun fact: Kofi Atta Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, is from Ghana.


Photo courtesy of Andrew Mason.
Although the challenges of the past century still remain visible in the divides of the city, Berlin is a pulse of contemporary European politics, art and culture. With two major research universities, the German capital is host to students from across Europe and the world. Meanwhile, the low cost of living, relative to other cities in Western Europe, draws artists and musicians into the cosmopolitan center.
The NYU academic center is located in an old Jewish neighborhood of Berlin, so students who study in Berlin are quite literally immersed in history. Many NYUAD students who choose to study Berlin have a positive academic experience. “The courses definitely weren't as demanding as in Abu Dhabi, but if I wanted extra work and extra guidance, my professors would be very supportive,” said NYUAD junior Charlotte Wang. She added, “You could get as much out of a class as you were willing to put into it.”
A Social Research and Public Policy major, Wang found the professors and course offerings impressive, which were complemented by Berlin’s active intellectual life. “There are lots of institutes holding interesting talks and conferences all the time,” she said.
NYUAD junior Tine Paulsen likewise enjoyed the academic experience in Berlin, where she was able to develop her German. “The Berlin faculty takes work seriously, which means they expect you to do the same,” she said.
“You grades will get deducted if you skip class without a good excuse,” she warned.
With more than 2,500 public recreational and green spaces in the city, Berlin is known as a city of parks. Students headed to Berlin should consider using bikes as a primary form of transportation.
“My perspective completely changed [after I bought a bike],” said Paulsen. “I discovered a lot of small, nice neighborhoods, unknown parks and I didn't have to rely on public transportation.”
“I could bike through the city and encounter such a variety of landscapes and urban vignettes,” Wang said.
But be wary of the harsh Berlin winter. According to Paulsen, who studied in Berlin in the Spring semester, winter remained for the first two months she was there. Wang, who studied in Berlin during the fall semester, added, “the cold and the rain would have been fairly soul-crushing had it not been for the Christmas markets.”
Although there are many great opportunities for regional travel, Wang advised to avoid overzealousness. “Spend time settling into and really living in the city where you're studying,” she said. “If you're leaving every other weekend, you really lose a lot of the experience.”
To students studying in Berlin, Paulsen advised mindfulness of the local laws. “Never, ever jaywalk. The Germans take their rules very seriously,” she warned.
Good for majors: SRPP, history.
Best time to go: Spring.
Fun fact: With 175 museums, Berlin is said to have more museums than rainy days.
Tel Aviv
Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle.
Studying abroad in Tel Aviv gives NYUAD students the chance to experience an entirely different vantage point towards the Middle East. NYUAD junior Daniel Gellai describes the Israeli capital as “a very interesting and cool city, extremely friendly and diverse.” The layers of the region’s history are present throughout the city.
NYU Tel Aviv is the smallest of all the sites in the global network, usually ranging from about 10 – 20 people per semester, so be prepared for a close-knit community.
Despite the program’s small size, there is a range of interesting academics offered. Students are expected to take either Arabic or Hebrew language courses. The classes offered at NYU Tel Aviv include courses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace and conflict issues. Said Gellai, “I could learn about the different approaches on how to solve the conflict.” There are a wide range of course offerings for Arab Crossroads and Political Sciences majors, and students can sometimes take journalism or archeology classes.
According to Gellai, the course offerings are grounded in the location. “The classes are very interesting especially since they try to take connect the material with places, attractions, things, foods, drinks, you name it, that are just outside the building.”
Outside of the classroom there are study trips around Israel, including to Jerusalem, the Galilee, and the Negev. “Besides visiting the usual, touristic attractions we had the chance to learn about the complexities and different layers of the place,” said Gellai.
“I would say that you learn much more outside the classroom then inside. The trips and just hanging out and talking to locals were often more educational than some lectures,” he added.
An important note: “When you accept the study abroad opportunity you have to sign a waiver that says that you cannot go to the West Bank or Gaza,” said Gellai. However, he mentioned that students who want to do regional travel will go to Jordan, Egypt or Cyprus, or plan ahead and go after the program finishes.
Good for majors: Arab crossroads, political science.
When to go: Spring.
Fun fact: Tel Aviv has the world's largest concentration of Bauhaus buildings, which is one reason that it is known as "The White City.”
Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn.
The fun-loving and lively Spanish capital makes for an exciting and immersive semester — if you want it to be, says NYUAD Junior Symone Gamble. For her, the city is a safe and welcoming space to learn about Spanish life and culture. “You can stop anyone on the street and they tend to be so happy to help you,” she said.
The biggest setback of this GNU site, according to Gamble, is that “you fall in love with the country but know there aren't many job opportunities here afterward.”
Gamble advised anyone considering studying abroad at NYU in Madrid to brush up on their knowledge of the political and economic situation in Spain.
“It is reflected so much in everyday life in Spain right now,” she said. “To be ignorant of it would really dull your experience.” One of two NYU sites in Spanish speaking countries, NYU Madrid offers the proficient Spanish speaker an opportunity to take classes entirely in Spanish, both within the NYU site and at La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
If your Spanish is not quite ready to read Cervantes alongside Spaniards, Gamble highly recommended staying with a host family.
“You have to be proactive about meeting locals,” she said. “I secured an internship here and have Spanish friends which have enriched my experience so much.”
Now interning at Fundacíon Créate, an organization that teaches entrepreneurial skills to youth, Gamble enjoys engaging with Spanish daily life in different ways.
And it’s a fun place to go. According to Gamble, “Madrid has such great social and night life that it can be a bit distracting.”
Good for majors: Art history, political science, as well as Spanish speakers and enthusiasts.
Best time to go: Spring. “Seeing everyone shift into summer here is lovely,” remarked Gamble.
Fun fact: NYU in Madrid was NYU’s first study-away site, opening in 1958 during the regime of dictator Francisco Franco.
Photo by Daria Karaulova/The Gazelle.
Due to the wide range of academic options offered in different majors, NYU London remains one of the most popular study abroad sites among NYUNY and NYUAD students. Some students consider this study abroad location easy because, unlike other sites, it does not place you in an environment with the foreign language. However, students who are currently studying there hasten to warn you that the academics are slightly more challenging than in the majority of other GNU sites. Furthermore, since there is no language barrier, some students tend to be less motivated to go out and experience the local culture. The academics and extracurricular activities offer a rich selection of classes that provide an exposure to the local culture.
“I love the energy and amazing events on in London,” said NYUAD junior Jessica Tattersall. “I'm taking a theatre course as an elective, and we get to see a play every week which is amazing. It would have been difficult to find a course like this at another site.”
The most common downside of the student experience in London tends to be the cost of living and the weather.
“It's very expensive compared to other cities and you have to get used to a few months of dull weather and lots of rain,” said NYUAD junior Sahar Kazemini.
Despite the weather and pricey living, London still has plenty of alternative options to offer.
“If you are like me and you like winter fashion and indoor activities (such as museums and galleries, and in London you'll be spoilt for choice) then it shouldn't be an issue - it has actually made a nice change from Abu Dhabi weather,” Tattersall said.
Students who have already experienced the semester in London advise taking risks and exploring the richness of British culture.
“I'd probably say make a real effort to explore the culture, despite how similar to your own it may seem on the surface, and budget accordingly - it is very expensive,” Tattersall said.
Good for majors: Economics, history, political science, psychology.
When to go: “Let's be honest - you'd be a fool to come to London for its weather at any time of year,” Tattersall said. “This spring has been one of the coldest so far for the past few decades, and I doubt during the fall it is much better.”
Fun fact: 25% of the people living in London were born in another country.
Buenos Aires
Photo by Daria Karaulova/The Gazelle.
The sunny capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires yearly attracts many students who are passionate about human rights, want to learn Spanish or simply seek an inspiration for their creative ideas.
Despite the fact that the classes in NYU Buenos Aires are offered in a limited number of fields, they give a good cultural and historical insight that helps students to learn Spanish and immerse in the local culture and lifestyle. Besides, there is an option to take all of the classes in Spanish.
“I didn't make a lot of progress with regards to graduation requirements or major completion, but I enjoyed my classes and learned a lot,” said junior student Simon Huang.“English isn't very widely spoken there, which I found made it a great place for Spanish language acquisition.”
If you are highly proficient in Spanish, there is an opportunity to enroll in the local university and experience a full immersion into the system of education in Spanish. However you must petition to study outside the Global Network to do this.
“I wish I had known that studying at Argentine universities outside of NYU was an option, because I think that would have been a great option for me,” said junior student Amelia Kahn.
The variety of the regional trips offered by NYU Buenos Aires program gives a good insight into the different corners of Argentina. And there are many destinations that can facilitate your immersion into the beauty of Latin America.
“Regional travel is a must! I visited Peru, Bolivia, and Uruguay as well, and had a great time in all of them,” Huang said.
Good for majors: Visual arts, music, film, journalism.
When to go: “It's a matter of preference, of course, but I chose fall semester: it's still winter when you arrive, but the city gradually warms up. The jacaranda trees blossom as it turns into spring, and the semester ends before the humid heat of summer really comes around,” Huang said.
Fun fact: Argentinian castellano is considered the sexiest dialect in Latin America.
Photo courtesy of Toni Rodrigo.
One of the recent tidbits of news about the NYU Florence study abroad site is that in the next several years, it is planned to become more social sciences oriented and less arts and music focused.
“The art professors have informed us that all art studio professors did not get their contracts renewed, meaning no art studio classes for next semester,” said junior student Claudia Carrasco.
Despite the shift in academic focus, Florence still remains the top destinations for the lovers of Italian language and cuisine. One of the optimal ways to experience both is to choose a homestay as a housing option.
“Homestay. Do it. It's an amazing experience and you basically build up another family life in a foreign country that you can definitely keep for the rest of your life,” Carrasco said.
The opportunity to do regional traveling is especially appealing due to the central location of Italy, although students emphasize that the actual city should be given more credit than one might think.
“Florence itself has a lot more to offer than museums and churches, there's a million little nooks and passageways that are amazing to explore if you're willing to go out and find them,” Carrasco said.
Junior student Alejandra Pinto Miguel mentions that the knowledge of art history would be beneficial tool during your study abroad experience.
Good for majors: Social sciences, psychology, pre-law, pre-business track.
When to go: Spring brings heavy rain but the beautiful blooming of Tuscany.
Fun fact: “Florence offered the best mix of theater and brain and cognitive science classes,” Carrasco said.
Washington DC
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“I decided to study in Washington, DC because of the vibrant cultural and political life here and the amazing career and networking opportunities,” said junior student Darina Gancheva.
Apart from a rich variety of classes in social science field, NYU Washington DC offers a wide range of internship opportunities in the city, which gives students a chance to put their knowledge gained during lectures into practice.
“Living in DC really allows a person to immerse themselves in the political culture of the United States, both through internship experiences and outside of them,” said sophomore student Amel Yagoub. However, Gancheva noted that the challenging part is sometimes struggling to balance internship with classes.
Although a lot focus goes towards building networks and experience the professional life of policymakers and political figures, Washington DC is a great place for young minds and adventurous souls.
“Washington DC is also a vibrant student city with a lot of coffee shops, cozy restaurants, and college bars,” Gancheva said.
Since it is only the second semester that the site is opened for the undergraduate students, the program remains relatively small. One building combines the classrooms, dorms, small library, but does not offer a gym.
“Currently, there are twenty students, but there is the capacity to house 120,” Yagoub said.
Good for majors: Political science, SRPP, economics, history, journalism.
When to go: If you go in the spring, you can secure a six-month internship that will continue throughout the summer.
“The ideal time to study in DC would be during an election year as that is when the city is actually alive and when there are the most opportunities for involvement,” Yagoub said. “If you're worried about whether, I would prefer spring to fall.”
Fun fact: january term class Nation-building took a week-long field trip to Washington DC and experienced the hospitality of the NYU Washington DC site.
New York
Photo courtesy of Julie DeVito.
It’s our namesake and mothership, a home base for some of our Residential Assistants and plenty of our faculty. And for many NYUAD students, New York City is home for a J-Term, a semester or a year. What should NYUAD students expect when they head to the other university, in and of the city?
“The best part of going to NYUNY is that it’s not a campus,” says NYUAD junior Shamma Al Mazuri. At the university that seamlessly folds into New York’s Greenwich Village, the most populous city of the U.S. acts as both campus and classroom.
“NY is a melting pot of innovation,” said Al Mazuri. “You can find anything and everything you want; from jewelry workshops to restaurants that only serve microbiotic organic dairy-free food.”
For the increasing numbers of NYUAD students studying in New York each semester, the shift from NYUAD’s burgeoning community to the 181-year-old institution of NYUNY can be daunting. Compared to NYUAD’s minute student population of under 400 students, NYUNY’s grand total of 38,000 students can feel overwhelming.
Yet the university’s long history and significant presence in downtown New York are precisely what makes it a popular site for so many NYUAD students.
Since coming to New York, Al Mazuri has been able to take advantage of the diversity in academics offered, taking classes that are not offered in NYUAD.
Outside of the classroom, what has surprised Al Mazuri the most is the kindness she encounters in the city. “Before I came here, my professor told me that New Yorkers can be the rudest people. To be honest, I have never met anyone who was rude,” she said.
“NYC has the best social infrastructure in the world,” she said. “I mean you can meet people from everywhere.”
Good for majors: All.
When to go: "I have been here for summer, fall, J-term and spring and I have to be honest, I loved every season. There's something unique about each period," said Al Mazuri.
Fun fact: New York City has more than 4,000 street food vendors — highly recommended.
Photo by Daria Karaulova/The Gazelle.
You can’t truly understand Paris if you don’t have an actual living experience in this city. And there is no better time than being a student who is seeking experience in the new cultures and looking for an opportunity to learn French language.
Although the homestays seem to be less effective for the improvement of language purposes than in the other study abroad sites, and the residence and apartment housing options are more common among students, there exist many other opportunities to put your French into practice on academic and social levels. NYU Paris has established connections with the local universities such as Sciences Po and University of Paris, where the students are offered to take classes in French in the lecture halls with the local students.
There is also a French track program offered on the NYU Paris site.
“Academically, I feel that Paris has been much easier for me than Abu Dhabi, but I'm not taking any science classes or very high-level courses so that might have something to do with it,” said junior student Eric Johnson. “However, it can be challenging at times to take courses in another language, regardless of the topic.”
In addition to the long history and rich cultural heritage, Paris is a young and dynamic city that brings together people from different corners of the world and creates a beautiful scene for the social interactions. Being a student in Paris you can especially benefit from the public study spaces such as libraries, cafes and parks. Students who have already completed their semester indicate that there is always room for new experiences in Paris.
“The cultural resources of the city go far deeper than a semester can fully explore,” said junior student James Hunt.
“I really like being in Paris not only for the wonderful French culture of wine and baguettes, which is lovely, but particularly for me because it is so central to Europe in terms of culture, politics, and travel,” Johnson said.
NYU Paris has a lot of regional travel opportunities that vary from semester to semester and generally gives a good insight in the local culture. If you don’t want to run into expenses, exploring nearby towns can be a great option where just within a short train ride you can visit the castles, palaces and beautiful nature that were home to the royal families and inspiration to the artists such as Monet, throughout the history.
Good for majors: Visual arts, theater, music and history.
When to go: Fall for those who are nostalgic for rainy weather and Christmas beauty, and spring for the lovers of blooming flowers and spending time outdoors, in the gardens and parks.
Fun fact: NYU Paris is currently in a process of moving into a new campus that is supposed to offer more spacious and location wise convenient facilities for the students.
Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle.
NYU Prague provides students with a portal to Eastern Europe. NYUAD junior James Lloyd said of the city, “its so small, but so packed with things and different eras of history: a 5 minute walk will take you through physical evidence of three or four different eras.”
In terms of academics, NYUAD junior Nahuel Rosa described the curriculum in Prague as “really chill.”
“The academics in Prague are designed for you to explore the culture and the country. All of my classes were related to Czech culture,” he said.
NYUAD junior Stephen Underwood also spent a semester in Prague. Ruminating on his semester, he said, “Prague can be a lonely city.”
Further emphasizing the solitude felt in his experience, Underwood said, “If your thought is to find a city where you can learn to be more like an adult in beautiful isolation, Prague is for you.”
Good for majors: Politics, journalism.
When to go: Spring. According to Lloyd, “Prague gets really stunning at that time of year.”
Fun fact: Prague Castle, constructed in the 9th century, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest castle in the world.
Photo via
Located at a 5-minute walk from Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House, NYU Sydney gives students an opportunity to live and take classes at the center of Australia’s largest city.
NYUAD junior Carmen Germaine studied in Sydney with her J-Term class. “The city is really beautiful. Lots of hip neighbourhoods and lots of pretty gorgeous older buildings too,” she said.
The NYU Sydney website says course offerings focus on Australia’s history and culture, with particular focus on the art and culture of the Aboriginal population in Australia. Disciplines include anthropology, English, environmental studies, journalism, and communications.
The strong Australian dollar makes Sydney a pricey site for many students. However, penny-pinchers can enjoy a number of inexpensive or free museums and plenty of local beaches without needing to stress about spending.
NYU Sydney is a new and growing program, developing its identity with each semester of students that arrive. For NYUAD students, this unfinished chaos could provide the comforting familiarity of our home campus.
Good for majors: SRPP, literature.
When to go: The fall (or spring down under), which in the southern-hemisphere leads to summer.
Fun fact: Because of Sydney’s beach culture, be prepared to see people out jogging in just their underwear.
Correction: A previous version of this article noted that there is an opportunity to study at local universities in Buenos Aires without indicating that this is only possible outside of the GNU.
Alistair Blacklock is co-editor-in-chief. Daria Karaulova is news editor. Email them at
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