NYU Shanghai With All Its Beauty and All Its Flaws

I hope this finds everybody (including anybody who either attends NYU Shanghai, who is thinking about NYUSH or whoever just reads this little thing of a blog) well. I’d like to paint a little outline of the reasons why I chose this school and why I’m currently here.

Almost nine months ago, I made the decision to embark on this ridiculously exciting journey that was to be New York University Shanghai. I had dreamed about going to NYU since I was pretty young – I had my sights set on Tisch, I was going to become famous. Then I wanted to go to law school and solve all the world’s problems and become Ban Ki Moon: Australian Edition. (That’s still the dream – I’m working on it). Basically, I wanted to live and breathe New York, I really really did. That’s kind of backstory volume I.

Backstory volume II would probably be that I grew up to be this excited-about-life little travel bug – read a little bit more about that here.

I had heard about NYU Shanghai a little while ago. I stumbled across their website back in 2012 or 2011, and didn’t really think too much about it, except for the fact that my mum proceeded to say “you’re going to go there.” Then, a bit over a year ago now, I was applying to universities all over the world. Los Angeles, Sydney, Warwick, Cambridge in the U.K., London, New York, Berkeley – basically, you name any school, and I probably applied there. The U.S. applications were due January 1, like they still are.

Of course, one of my top options was NYU New York. As I’m going through the application, a little box came up saying NYU Shanghai. Without even thinking about it, I ticked the box. Shanghai – I can do that. I lived in Hong Kong for over ten years, and it’s closer to Australia than New York is – why the hell not.

A short while after, I got a phone call – an interview. They asked me questions about China, about why I was interested, and at the end of the phone call, they tell me to switch my preferences. They wanted me in Shanghai, and by the end of that phone call I knew I had gotten in.

A few months later, admissions came out. I got it. Then, suddenly, I was being flown to Shanghai to meet my potential classmates, to see the city and understand the school a little bit better. Now, the school is only a year and a half old. That’s not very old. I came to Shanghai in April and there was no campus yet – they were leeching onto the campus of East China Normal University. We were instructed that by the time we got here in August, we wouldn’t even be living in permanent dorms.

And you know what? I couldn’t care less. I didn’t care that I was going to have a temporary dorm room – at least I was going to be living somewhere. I didn’t care what I was going to major in, and I didn’t care that only 12 or 13 majors were on offer. I knew that I was getting SO much more than that. I was going to be 7977 kilometres away from home, in this amazing, vibrant city, and that genuinely was enough for me.

I remember that weekend. Half the people I met there have become some of my best friends. The people here are intelligent; they’re hard working, smart and funny. Nowhere else have I actually had an intelligent discussion on how I really do love literature and about the world economy and all those things that they tell you are normal cocktail party conversations. Yes, I’ve also stayed out until pretty late and had amazing meals: I actually manage to have a social life. I don’t get enough sleep, but hey, they say you can only manage two out of the three: sleep, social life and good grades.

In saying that, none of it is easy. I’m working harder than I have ever worked before. But I’m also getting the opportunity to write and do something I’m passionate about – name one other publication that allows half their staff writers to be freshmen: not many. And that’s not just because we only have sophomores and freshman: it’ll continue to be that way. If you are passionate about something, yes you have to work for it, but it’ll get done. This school is new, we still have to teach it to walk on its own two legs and to talk and we’re expanding its vocabulary day by day, but it’s a process.

Now, I can’t speak for Science majors, considering I’m focusing on the humanities, but I know this for a fact. Science courses all around the world are not meant to be easy. They have more requirements than any other course. I know word had spread quickly that Science majors here are unbearable and hard, but I really don’t know one doctor that will tell you that his college experiences were easy. They just want hardworking people. It’s the same with calculus. I know I’m not great at maths. I can push myself, and yes I’ll get better grades, but it’s meant to be hard so you do push yourself.

But you know what? I don’t know one other college student who can say that their college experience involves as much as mine does.

There’s a great quote by Marissa Mayer – the CEO of Yahoo! – that goes:

I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.

NYU Shanghai was my breakthrough. Yes, there are days where I just want a stupid bloody grilled cheese and to see my sister and to just lie on a beach and relax – but right now, I’m here, and I’ve never appreciated anything more.


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