Guidance From The Grads

The first step to not freaking out? Following the tips and tricks of those who went before you.

“First of all, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t freak out,” said Roman Chen, a self-designed Honors Major. The first step to not freaking out? Following the tips and tricks of those who went before you.

When the Class of 2017 first enrolled, NYU Shanghai was a new four-year institution and one of its uncertainties was a still developing curriculum. One of the biggest questions students had in their mind was the shape higher education would take at NYU Shanghai. “It was definitely not planned out,” Kelvin Liu, a Computer Science major, said. He “kinda just winged it,” starting off as a business student, switching to FOS for one semester, and then changing to a computer science major once the program was offered.

Tyler Rhorick, an IMA major started out on a completely different track than he ended on. “Fact is that I thought I was gonna be a real lawyer and I actually thought I was going to study political science and do politics,” Rhorick said. “At the time the school did not offer political science or any social science so what I had decided was that I came to the school to talk all about this and she told me how she went to law school having studied Chinese culture you know like East Asian studies essentially,” Rhorick continued. He changed to a Global China Studies major, but his path slowly shifted to IMA.

While many other universities already had an established program, going to NYU Shanghai meant you were the one who formed your curriculum. Sean Kelly, an IMA major with an Electrical Engineering minor, had some obstacles to selecting his major. “I used to backtrack even a little bit. I didn’t know what I wanted to do as far as career or a job but I knew what I love to do and it was all these kind of IMA related things anyway,” Kelly said. “I could just never realize that that could be a college major and that could turn into a career. So when I found IMA I was just ecstatic. I absolutely loved it because I didn’t know things like that existed in academic study.”

A big stressor can be finding an internship or some work experience when it feels like everyone around you has one. “When it comes to internships [and getting experience in the industry you’re trying to work in],” said Kelvin Liu, the recent Computer Science graduate, “self-motivation is really important cause then you’d actually want to do the stuff you’re applying for right? Don’t just find an internship just because you think you have to find one.”

Pursuing a field or topic that you are passionate in was a common thread for recent graduates. “Being passionate about something or finding something you’re passionate about is really that first step. And that’s true that I wouldn’t over think and I wouldn’t worry too much and as long as you’re working hard and moving for that step and communicating with other people who are also passionate about the same thing and getting involved in communities,” said Sean Kelly, a recent graduate in IMA with an Electrical Engineering minor. “I think the other issues would be whether I should intern here or should I do grad school or go straight into the workforce I think those kind of are less monumental decisions than they may seem at first once you’re involved with those communities of like minded passionate people,” Kelly added.

It’s all about finding a way to split your time. “For me personally the thing I learnt [about] the most in senior year is to learn how to balance professional life and personal life,” Chen continued. Chen added that he learned how to take time for himself and time for friends and balance that with time for schoolwork.

This can become even more complicated as seniors begin to pursue capstone projects. Roman Chen, a self-designed honors major, encouraged students to work together. “We would schedule writing sessions together, I even went to visit sites another capstoner was researching on the because I was very interested in her topics so I just went with her,” Chen said. “So I think just having those kind of peer support is very important. It keeps you going, it keeps your your mental sanity.”

Kenny Song, a recent graduate in Mathematics, encouraged current students to “try to do research earlier, and maximize the memories you make during your study away experience.” Having more impact and making use of the time that you’re here was a come refrain. Dian Yu, a recent graduate in Computer Science, urged students to “have more influence on the culture and people.”

“It’s okay that it takes some time, and it’s frustrating and a lot of us don’t you don’t even know where we were gonna go in our lives for at least the next two years,” said Qinrui Chen, a recent graduate in Neuroscience.

The Class of 2017 had a hard four years, because they were building the school and programs as they encountered them. Back then, NYU Shanghai did not even have a website with complete, detailed information for prospective students to take a look at, everyone who considered coming mainly made their decision based upon participating in the candidate weekend activities. “I chose to come to NYU Shanghai because of the candidate student weekend. I never thought I would ever go to a school like this before that,” said Dian Yu, a Computer Science major. “I talked to professors, students and staff and after I went back and thought of the whole experience, I realized that this is the best choice for me.”

Kenny Song, currently an associate product manager at Google, also was excited at the idea of being the first class. “We got the chance to build clubs, student government, and our school culture from the ground up,” Song said. “Moreover, I figured that most of the other students who would choose to attend such a university would be interesting and ambitious people, and I wanted to surround myself with that kind of community.”

As the inaugural class, they learned a lot by making their own path. Attending NYU Shanghai as a student did not only mean a challenging new experience for students, their view on future opportunities and career paths also changed. “I think the biggest thing that NYU had done to help me with in that regarding is giving me the opportunity to travel because my view on like what I want to do with my life has a lot to do with the places I’ve been able to visit,” said Krista Young, a Business and Finance major. “Most of the travels I’ve done are related to like academics or courses taken through NYU.”

After four years at NYU Shanghai, the class of 2017 had a vast array of different experiences and this led to some confusion over what to do after graduation. Qinrui Chen, a Neuroscience graduate, remembers how her friends reassured each other during the stress of senior year. “You don’t need to follow a certain path that everybody else is keeping. Just follow the path that you have in your heart. And you don’t need to rush into anything just because your friends got married at 20 and your friends bought a new car in their 20s, you don’t have to follow the conventional way, the conventional definition of success and try as many [things] as you can until you find the specific discipline that you really love that you wanna invest your whole heart and your whole lifetime into,” Chen said.

This article was written by Diem Hang Pham. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Global Times</a?

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