Shanghai Through the Lens of a Study-Away

As a portal student at NYU Shanghai, it might be easy to sometimes forget that study away students make up a vital part of our college community. Most of the portal students here have a clear sense of what our university is and what it means to them: this is our home campus and we are constantly shaping its identity. It was the place that we chose, the place that houses our growth from frightened freshmen to self-assured sophomores, the place where we buy obsessive amounts of purple merchandise to shamelessly promote NYU Shanghai in our hometowns. Our university is part of who we are.

But what is it like to study away in Shanghai? Spending only one or two semesters of your college career here is an entirely different experience. OCA caught up with study away Quan Ho Vuong to see what he and his classmates think of NYU Shanghai:

What motivated you to study away in Shanghai?

Quan Vuong: I went to NYUSH last March and was impressed by the student body here, so I wanted to get to know the students better.

Had you visited China before you arrived? What were your first impressions? Were you apprehensive at all?

QV: I had visited China twice before. Shanghai isn’t that different from most major metropolitans, so no big surprises.

What made you pick Shanghai as opposed to a different study away site?

QV: Because NYUSH!

Would you say Shanghai is a popular choice for Study-Aways? Why/why not?

QV: Previously not really because of the lack of classes (academics) and lack of exotic feeling (new experiences etc.). But now with NYUSH I imagine it would get more popular.

What is your favorite thing about NYU Shanghai?

QV: The people.

What is the worst? (You have permission to be brutal!)

QV: Cafeteria food. Social space and architecture. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in the Motel, but I feel less of a sense of community, less flow of ideas and more segregation in the community here.

Finally, apart from avoiding the turmoil of living at Motel268, would you say the study-away experience differs greatly from the experience gained by the portal students?

QV: Yes because of the ephemerality of our experience. We’re here for four months and you’re here continuously for at least two years. Definitely less of a sense of community and less root.

After talking to Quan Ho Vuong it was clear his opinions echo a lot of what the study away students have voiced – NYU Shanghai is a great school with a vibrant community, but it is only recently gaining more interest from the students at other campuses. As our university grows (and the cafeteria food improves!) I expect we will get more popular as a study away site, but for now we are only two years old, we are doing good!

With thanks to Quan Ho Vuong for taking the time to answer my many questions in the middle of midterm week.

This article was written by Stephanie Bailey. Send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Anna Perez