When Sharon Zhao Hanyu ’23 was a high school senior in Ningbo, Zhejiang, she was faced with a decision: take the familiar path or head off on the path untraveled.
The safe choice? Attend a prestigious university in Beijing and major in a foreign language. “I felt like if I went to that school I could imagine where I would be in 10 years,” she recalls. “However, I felt like going to NYU Shanghai really would be an adventure for me and full of uncertainties, but also opportunities.”
Born and raised in Magna, Utah, a township of less than 30,000 with over 10 Mormon churches in a 3 mile (5 km) radius from his home, it wasn’t until Carter Christensen ’23 went on a trip with his high school music program to New York City that he began to consider attending university in a big city far away. They attended a Broadway show, performed at Carnegie Hall, and sat in in a class at NYU’s New York Campus.
Growing up between Ecuador and New York has taught Ariana Alvarez ’23 how to navigate between cultures, places, and languages. She says it contributed to her curiosity of exploring the world, her love of learning languages, and her motivation to create change through diplomacy.
When he stepped onto the Century Avenue Campus in the Fall 2019, Dennis Hu Shiyi ’23 was convinced that NYU Shanghai was the university of his dreams but he was still nervous. Now four years later as he prepares to walk the stage at commencement, he recalls the expectations and anxieties he felt in his first year on Move-In Day.
“It took me, an introvert, more time to settle down in such a diverse university life,” Hu says. “I had some self-doubt and tried to meet more people. But it is always the first step that is the hardest.”
When Adib El Ounani ’23 first arrived at NYU Shanghai, both English and Chinese felt like foreign languages to him. A native speaker of Arabic, he learned French as a second language from a young age — like many of his classmates in Morocco — and only began studying English in high school. Life in Shanghai proved difficult to navigate, resulting in small mishaps such as taking the train in the wrong direction and eating spicy food at restaurants because he didn’t know how to request the milder option.
As Social Science major Zhang Yaqi ’23 developed her capstone project in education, she looked back to her own high school experience at a cram-focused, discipline-heavy boarding school to inspire her.