On Thursday, NYU officially welcomed the 57 Puerto Rican student receiving aid as part of the Hurricane Maria Assistance Program. Avoiding the frigid New York cold, the newly arrived students gathered together in the King Carlos I of Spain Center where President Andrew Hamilton gave them a warm welcome.
NYU first announced the program in November. While the university originally committed to accept 50 students to the program, it increased the number to 60 due to the high volume of applications, according to Vice Chancellor Josh Taylor. The assistance program provides students with free tuition for a semester, housing, NYU student healthcare and a meal plan. NYU is one of several universities, including Brown University, Cornell University and Tulane University, that has created programs to assist those impacted by Hurricane Maria.
Hamilton addressed the newly arrived students and complimented their fortitude in spite of troubling conditions in Puerto Rico.
“You have all shown remarkable resilience,” Hamilton said. He went on to comment on New York City’s close cultural ties with Puerto Rico.
“The ties between New York City and New York University and Puerto Rico are strong and long standing,” Hamilton said.
According to Hamilton, over 600 students of Puerto Rican heritage currently attend NYU.
Prior to Thursday night’s reception, each new student was introduced to and paired with an NYU mentor. Assistant Dean for International and Diversity Advising Fatiah Touray said an overwhelming number of NYU students signed up to be a part of the mentor program. Many volunteers are members of the Academic Achievement Program, a program meant to strengthen underrepresented students at NYU. Tandon senior Angie Gonzalez, the program’s lead mentor, was born in New York City and raised by Puerto Rican parents. The mentors will help the Puerto Rican student’s to adapt to daily life in New York through events like a Nets game and a Broadway show.
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 as a Category 5 hurricane, leaving 64 dead. Over 95 percent of the country without power, but an investigation by The New York Times calculated that over 1,000 people were killed as a result of the hurricane. Much of the island still lacks electricity and basic utilities. This slow recovery process has affected most major Puerto Rican institutions including universities. University of Puerto Rico student Ana Garcia told WSN that consistent electricity at school was uncertain and that the lights would often go out during class.
Some new students, like University of Puerto Rico sophomore Crystal Medina, have been met with challenges transitioning to NYU.
“The process of adapting has been a little bit overwhelming,” Medina said. “For the first thing it is very cold, which is something that I’m not used to. The other thing is that I never lived this far from my home and my family so it was very daunting.”
Despite these obstacles, Medina remained positive and said she especially enjoyed her new classes. Similarly, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón student Christian De La Cruz, said he has enjoyed his time in the Stern School of Business.
“I don’t want to go back,” De La Cruz said through laughter.
De La Cruz, like the other 56 visiting students, are only eligible to stay at NYU for the spring semester. After that, students hoping to continue their education at NYU will have to reapply. De La Cruz said he hopes to apply for graduate school at NYU once the semester ends.
Email Mack DeGeurin at [email protected].