As we move into the second year of our university, several important changes will be taking place. Come mid-August, we will be studying in new classrooms, living and sleeping not in Putuo but in Pudong, and our student population will double in size. These changes are easy to see, but something deeper and more fundamental is also shifting.

Last year, the inaugural class was faced with the monumental task of not only transitioning from high school to college, but also moving to an entirely different continent for many, as well as adapting to the incredible diversity that our university embodies. Now, those 294 freshmen are turning into sophomores, having survived this trial by fire. NYU Shanghai as a university has also survived its first year with no major incidents.

This upcoming year, the current sophomores will be returning with confidence from experience, and the current freshmen won’t primarily be figuring things out through trial and error, as their struggles will almost certainly have a precedent. The entire community, especially students, will no longer be starting from zero: they will have the advantage of a full year’s worth of experience, knowledge, and maturity behind them.

With less time and energy spent on the transition process, we can truly begin to focus on why we’re all in Shanghai in the first place: to change the educational landscape of China. NYU Shanghai is an experiment in cross-cultural collaboration, in bringing innovation to the entrenched standard of university education, and in giving students an unprecedented amount of control over their college experience (which is true, despite how it seems from time to time).

Therefore, this upcoming year will no longer be defined simply by learning to survive in China and adapting to culture shock. These are incredibly valuable and necessary experiences, for sure, but also time-consuming and demanding. This shift in focus from survival to growth is subtle, but crucial for the acceleration of any venture.

I’m especially excited for the student initiatives of the 2014-15 year. Last year we had a number of great events run by students, and I’m expecting the number and size of these events to increase dramatically . What can we accomplish with twice the number of students, extra motivation, and more free time? I know of several national conferences and international initiatives that students are planning already.

Another interesting development will be NYU Shanghai’s rise to the global stage. Last year, despite our prominent position in the NYU global network, we were a fairly insular community, as our focus was primarily on internal matters. I believe we will play a much more active role this year and the idea of the Global Network University will be much more pervasive in our daily lives. There are many global initiatives currently being planned, and the sophomore class will soon start considering  where they want to go for their semesters abroad.

Our Student Government is also working to realize the concept of the Global Network University beyond the marketing platitudes found in NYU Shanghai promotional materials. The creation of the Shanghai Senator position will give our school equal representation on New York’s Student Senators’ Council – and thus the University Senate, where decisions affecting the entirety of NYU are made. The Global Student Council, an overarching structure organizing all of NYU’s Student Governments into one cohesive force, will also be starting this year.

As I’m heading the Global Student Council’s development in the Shanghai campus, I can speak a bit more about its mission. Our goal is to become a platform for international collaboration between the NYU campuses and to unify our individual voices if needed. We want to improve the consistency and efficiency of the global network from the student experience. For example, there should be continuity in sequential courses across all of NYU. We’re also working on a global publication that documents various student perspectives on studying away.

It’s incredible to be part of such an exciting period of growth and transformation. I’m definitely eager to see what the next academic year brings, and to play my part in establishing NYU Shanghai as a world-class university.

This article was written by Kenny Song. Send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Nicole Chan

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