Traveling is an integral part of the typical NYU Abu Dhabi student’s experiences, educational or otherwise. Every week there are students off campus, often engaging in new or exciting activities. Recently, the NYUAD Debate Union traveled to Hong Kong to participate in an international tournament. Every fall and spring break, social media is flooded by pictures from all over the globe. Other than the short, busy trips that students take out of their own interest, the study abroad program has two distinct travel options: January Term and a whole semester away.
The J-Term according to the NYUAD website is meant to be a three-week immersive academic experience. Students enroll in courses that are usually site-specific. Students have many different opinions on J-Term and the sense of immersion that it offers.
“J-Term is like an intense form of tourism but you don't actually have time to become a part of the local culture,” said junior Jhamal Fanning, who spent his J-Term in Florence.
“I really enjoyed my three weeks in New York! [I] thought it was a good amount of time to explore New York as a city and helped me decide whether I wanted to study abroad there for a semester,” said sophomore Mahd Asghar. The question remains as to whether J-Term is truly enough time to immerse yourself in a culture.
J-Term in Abu Dhabi, however, is a different experience. Students have already spent multiple semesters in Abu Dhabi and get the chance to further explore the region. The shorter working days and amicable climate makes it easy for students to leave campus and potentially explore other emirates.
“My first J-Term was in Abu Dhabi, and I was thankful that I stayed in the UAE for my freshman year J-Term because I had more time to go off campus and explore Abu Dhabi,” junior Isabella Peralta wrote to The Gazelle.
Students value the extended cultural engagement when it comes to study abroad. In discussing this topic, junior Jhamal Fanning commented:
“I was most impressed with the opportunity to explore parts of the world that I would otherwise have never seen. Especially in semester abroad, you get to meet students who go halfway around the world for a huge number of reasons, ranging from — honestly, just clubbing — to exploring an indigenous culture. I chose Sydney because of the nature aspect and its distance from the rest of the developed world, but I also was curious about their environmental movements and the aboriginal relations. I learned a lot about both of those.”
The collective opinion is that the semester abroad simply gives students more time to do things outside of academics.
“I’m studying in New York right now, and I think that I know much more about the culture of this place because I’m studying here for a semester. I’ve taken several tours of the city and I’ve been to places that are specific to this city. I’ve learned more about the history of New York and the parts of this city that make New York City so world-renowned, and it would have been much harder to attain all these experiences had I stayed in New York for a J-Term,” said Peralta.
The key difference between the J-Term and the semester abroad is what one gets out of the experience. J-Term offers a focused academic experience that is complemented by the city's culture — a short but precise exposure — while the opposite can be said about the semester abroad. If a student wants to explore a culture, learn a new language and travel, they should go for the semester abroad, as it offers the time and flexibility to learn more about a country. In essence, a J-Term offers the chance to explore a city, whereas a semester abroad offers the chance to explore a culture.
Taj Chapman is a staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.