Students discussed their preparations to study away and their differences in cultural experiences during a panel discussion held as part of NYU’s World Tour. The event, “Navigating Diversity Abroad,” was held at NYU’s Gould Welcome Center Barasch Theater on Oct. 27.
The annual NYU World Tour is a week celebrating multiculturalism at NYU, its portal campuses and its study away sites. Events will be held throughout the week in many of these locations.
The discussion was moderated by Andrew Gordon, president and founder of Diversity Abroad, and hosted by the NYU Center for Multicultural Education and Programs in conjunction with NYU’s Office of Global Programs.
Panelist Thiago Fernandes, a CAS junior, spoke about studying away in Abu Dhabi as an immersive experience.
“I knew nothing about the Middle East, let alone Abu Dhabi, so I figured, ‘What better way to learn than by diving right in?’” Fernandes said.
Steinhardt junior Selena Mitchell shared her expectations before studying away at NYU Accra.
“I was influenced by the U.S. media about what Africa is like and what the people are like,” Mitchell said. “In my experience, they were the best people I’ve ever met, and it was safe.”
The panelists also mentioned some barriers they encountered while making preparations to go abroad, ranging from securing their finances to convincing family members that their study away site was secure.
Lighter topics were also discussed at the panel, such as academic schedules. Panelist and Gallatin senior Francesca Huynh said she made room in her schedule to travel while abroad and spoke of the academic rigor of her NYU Shanghai courses.
“The hardest course was my Chinese course that I had to take four times a week at 8 a.m.,” Huynh said. “But you definitely do have more time the rest of the week to do things.”
The panelists also answered questions relating to gender identity and cultural sensitivities.
“LGBTQ issues are not talked about at all in Ghana,” Mitchell said. “One of my friends who identifies as gay had problems with others not acknowledging him, or not taking kindly to him at all.”
Fernandes spoke about growing accustomed to life back in America after having studied away twice.
“Transitioning back to New York was interesting,” he said. “Reverse culture shock happened, but the biggest challenge was probably the fact that you’re probably never going to see the friends you’ve made again.”
The discussion ended with advice from the panelists, including Stern senior and panelist Rosario Giarratana, who studied away at NYU Shanghai.
“It’s okay to stay and explore the city you’re in for the first month, but don’t make the mistake of making a little corner of the city your comfort zone,” Giarratana said.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 28 print edition. Email Nathaly Pesantez at [email protected]