After a full year of trekking across continents, whether that be exploring concrete streets of New York, admiring classic European architecture or observing the culture of Abu Dhabi, NYU Shanghai seniors have come home.
As they’re returning to over 600 new faces and the largest freshmen class NYU Shanghai has ever admitted, some seniors have expressed they no longer feel the sense of community which characterized their freshman and sophomore years. Their own senior community is also disconnected by the fact that many seniors continued to study abroad this year.
“When school started I suddenly realized I was surrounded by people I didn’t know,” said senior Benny Weilun Zhang. “That was the first impression I got when I went on campus.”
His thoughts have been echoed throughout the NYUSH senior class, who are now often finding themselves displaced at their own university. The already prevalent disparity between underclassmen and upperclassmen is augmented by the fact that seniors have not met either the sophomore nor the freshman class, according to senior Spencer Smith. Not only are all the underclassmen new, but the one class seniors were acquainted with is currently studying abroad.
“I don’t walk around the hallways and see faces and go ‘I wonder who that is.’ They’re all freshmen to me,” said Smith.
Seniors not only feel isolated from the underclassmen but from faculty as well. Many professors have left since the seniors were last here and there are many new members on the staff. Students have conveyed that the university’s attempt to create a close-knit community is overshadowed by their need to be a global university.
“How do we define this community because you’re constantly in the midst of mobilization,” said Benny Weilun Zhang. “That’s a feeling I can’t even describe.”
While NYUSH has attempted to reconcile this incongruence between classes by creating campus-wide events for students, many still feel like these are not functioning to bring the community together.
“I don’t see those events as events where I can meet other people,” said Spencer Smith. “Usually what those are is, you stand in line for a really long time, you get your food, you sit with your friend group then you leave.”
Along with these events receiving negative feedback from the student body, they are also sparse. Only 2 out of 30 events on the October event calendar, listed on the NYU Shanghai website, promoted activity and conversation with other students. The overwhelming majority of events offered were lectures and speeches.
Senior Meichen Qian commented she has felt an absence of events which would facilitate bringing seniors closer with the rest of the community. “It would be better if we had a senior and sophomore and freshmen activity that we could be involved with together,” Qian said. “Maybe the school doesn’t want to; maybe the school doesn’t want to interrupt senior studies.”
While many seniors have expressed concern of a disjointed community, there are also a great number who are apathetic due to the concern of academics and their lives after graduation.
“Seniors are too busy,” said senior Jason Wang, a business and finance major. “Most of the time events are sent via email and you ignored those emails because you’re too busy.”
The indifference towards the NYUSH community that accompanies senior year can also be attributed to the fact that the majority of seniors live off campus and are no longer solely surrounded by other students.
“I don’t live in the dorms so I don’t take the bus back with people. I just come here for class, then go to the library,” said Spencer Smith. “I have a daily life outside this community now which I didn’t really have before.”
Although some seniors have shifted their view of NYUSH to be solely a place of academics rather than a social environment, there are still seniors that are taking extra steps to be apart of this community’s dialogue such as Richard Awuku-Aboayge.
“I play ping pong downstairs. I like to dance so I’m involved with the program there. So with those activities, I get to meet a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” said Awuku-Aboayge. “I feel like the upperclassmen should help lowerclassmen integrate into China and integrate into the community.”
While there are opportunities to be involved through outside activities, this level of involvement is not the standard for seniors who are solely focused on graduation, internships and academics. The question then becomes what NYU Shanghai can do to make this transition less jarring. Most seniors had the same answer: be more flexible with when students can study away.
Multiple seniors expressed that they would have preferred to study away sophomore year spring semester and junior year fall semester, allowing the opportunity for more fluid friendships between grade levels. However, not every senior thinks this is necessary.
“I’m happy it’s structured this way because we as a senior class get to meet and stay together for two years and that builds a stronger sense of community,” said senior Adriano Albarosa. “Even though we studied away for one year, we come back after that and the bond hasn’t loosened.”
This article was written by Brooke Jensen. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Maya Williams