Claire Jiaqi Song chose to come to NYU Shanghai, because she considers herself adventurous.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to see the world and different cultures and have friends from different backgrounds,” Song said, smiling. “I wanted to be educated in a Western higher education system, but didn’t want to be detached from the rapid growth of China.”
Song grew up in Guangzhou, south of Shanghai along the eastern coast of China. The third aspect that drew her up north for university was the unique opportunity that NYU Shanghai presented. “As the second class, we were presented with a great opportunity to grow with the school,” she said. “The school and I shaped each other to where we are right now.”
Remembering Orientation freshman year, Song laughed as she presented a metaphor. “It felt like a washing machine. You’ve been thrown in, you can’t control the pace, but you’re still spinning around. You just had to take it all in and try your best not to be dizzy.”
This confusion was not due to any difficulties of NYU Shanghai and Song was not exhausted by the ordeal. “It was not hard to adjust, but it was exciting and new to me. Since it was in the exciting phase, I didn’t feel tired, just interested and excited,” she said.
Now, of course, the novelty of the institution has worn off. Song took last semester off to pursue an internship in Shanghai and returning back to campus has felt familiar. “I was so excited to see everyone and everyone has just been so adorable to me,” she said. “Things have become pretty usual. I run into people and talk to them, but it’s just part of my daily life.”
Part of the difference is due to the fact that now there are three full classes at the Shanghai campus, along with study away students. “I don’t get to know everyone, but I also don’t have to say hi to everyone,” she said. “It feels like a normal university, more usual.” Song would like to get to know underclassmen, but feels that her classes don’t really offer her the opportunity to interact with them.
Song bases this normality off of her semester spent in New York. “I was so jealous of all of the resources,” she said, laughing. “The campus is so big that if you don’t deliberately talk to someone then you don’t see them. There was much more freedom for what you want to do and explore.”
She believes that spending a whole year at the New York campus could get old, however. “I have friends that stayed for one whole year and in the middle they get tired and had negative emotions,” she explained. “But, then they fell back in love.”
Song only spent one semester in New York, having spent the fall semester in Madrid. “I traveled a lot in Europe, picked up another new language, and saw a culture that is so different from the US,” she said. “I love that we get the opportunity to explore different lifestyles and different cultures, that we get to take a semester to live that life.”
This is one thing that NYU Shanghai uniquely provides its students, in Claire’s eyes. “They keep pushing you to adjust to a new environment. However, we are in the same NYU system, so we don’t need much time to adjust as things are similar,” she said.
“NYU Shanghai taught me to embrace every opportunity and never be afraid of seizing it,” she said. “When we first here, we had to explore our own resources. For the opportunities, you had to be proactive, like getting to know the great professors.” This was repeated during her time studying abroad. “There are so many options at each location, it is all about how you utilize this.”
One of the opportunities that Song took advantage of was getting involved in the NYU Shanghai Student Government’s Event Committee. “I met a lot of great people there, and it was such a pleasure. We all shared the same goal and shared memories and emotions,” she reminisced.
NYU Shanghai provides a freedom that Song believes she would not have gotten at a traditional Chinese university. “You need to really figure out what you want to do and arrange the priorities in your life to not be lost,” she said.
This article was written by Allison Chesky. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Claire Jiaqi Song