NYU Shanghai’s International Students Face Uncertainty for Fall 2020

Following NYU Shanghai’s announcement for its fall semester plan sent out a few days ago, the uncertainty to bring back international students has raised many concerns. Although follow-up responses have been released from NYU Shanghai’s administration, questions including if and how international students can be brought back, what the university is doing to support the students with less advantaged passports, and how incoming freshmen will be brought back remain unclear.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors were given five days to choose one of four options: take online classes for the entire semester, take online classes until they are able to return to Shanghai, study at another NYU Global Site, or take a leave of absence. In addition to the options given, in a press release on July 17th, it was announced that NYU Shanghai will host “2,300 Chinese undergraduates and 800 students from NYU and NYU Abu Dhabi for the fall semester.” In total, this would amount to  3,000 additional students, which is approximately twofold of NYU Shanghai’s current student population. In order to accommodate these new students, a building near the Century Avenue campus will serve as a second academic facility, alongside the 75 new faculty members (from NYU and other universities) that will conduct over 240 courses for both undergraduate and graduate students.

 Super seniors-seniors who elongated their college career beyond 4 years-however, were not mentioned in the email. The unprecedented circumstances present in Spring 2020 caused many graduating seniors to postpone their studies in order to return back to campus. This in turn has caused the upcoming semester to have over 15 super seniors enrolled (the largest number NYU Shanghai has ever had). The lack of reference to such students causes their options, and graduating statuses to remain uncertain. An email reaching out to Vice Chancellor Lehman was sent out by the group of students. The students received a response informing them that they will only be able to return with the rest of the international student body, prioritized later on in the semester and dependent on the upliftment of China’s visa ban.  

One concern for many is the mandatory 14-day quarantine for those arriving in China. The university stated that costs related to the mandatory quarantine are to be considered travel arrangements and will not be covered by NYU Shanghai. Additionally, several of the options given to many international students to whom the ‘Go Local’ option-of studying at a site closely located to where they are-is not applicable, therefore eliminating alternatives for those with weaker passports. 

The unpredictability caused by COVID-19 is one that has affected the NYU Shanghai community for close to six months, as of now. Such times have meant making substantial readjustments, adaptations to new academic mediums, and perseverance. Here are some thoughts from the student body on NYU Shanghai’s reopening plan for Fall 2020:

NYU Shanghai Student · Class of 2024

When I saw the email, I was excited and surprised that we could actually go. It was definitely good news but afterward, it felt late. It’s already mid-July and some people can’t leave in early August. I feel like it’s rushed and I don’t have any real time to prepare. I understand that they had to wait for the government but it’s definitely frustrating.

NYU Shanghai Student · Class of 2021

I believe as seniors there is less space to be flexible; you only have 2 semesters to finish the required classes and credits for your diploma, as some courses and opportunities would be unavailable online. I believe prioritizing freshman students, who possess the most time and space credit-wise, may not be the correct decision. Taking a LoA for many seniors would mean not graduating in time, which would eliminate our possibilities to go to graduate school right after graduating, as many colleges don’t accept Spring intakes. This would happen in addition to disrupting all existing plans for the future.

Sicheng (Gordon) Fan · Class of 2022

In general, I appreciate the effort made by the university. I’m aware of the importance of intense multicultural interactions for the first-year students at NYU Shanghai. And thus including the incoming freshmen in the first group to return to China is understandable to me.

But I do understand the anxiety of the rest of the international students. Many rising juniors canceled their study-away plans just to come back to Shanghai. I hope the school can update us soon about how and when they can be brought back to Shanghai. Everyone is part of the NYU Shanghai community and we shouldn’t abandon anyone. 

But all in all, this is a challenging period and we should all go through this together. Even though there might be some imperfect decisions, I still think the school is trying its best to provide help to us.

Ninad Mukherjee · Class of 2023

I think the school is doing the best they can and I don’t have an issue with the plans they have put in place, but they shouldn’t be charging people the same fees.

Gurkriti Singh· Class of 2020 ( Super Senior)

In general, the school has to keep in mind not only governmental protocol and the feasibility of gaining visas to return to campus, but the health and safety of its students. That being said, as a senior having already delayed degree attainment for a semester and being reliant on a visa to return home to Tianjin, China, I was quite disappointed with no mention of us (super seniors) and the unique position we are in. After having our last semester disrupted and not being able to be with our fellow graduates for our last semesters, we were latching on to being back in the Fall, majorly because we deemed it a necessity to finish our time at NYUSH. Now with our things still in Shanghai, and some of us requiring on-campus research amenities to finish off our capstones, returning is possibly as important if not more than it is for incoming freshmen. It is important to realize that we have especially borne the brunt of the pandemic as the graduating cohort of 2020 and to remember that our situation does not fit in with any of the other classes who have been given the option to return mid-semester. We took these LoAs because we were so close to arriving at the finish line, and with all the uncertainty that follows with job opportunities and grad school, it is imperative that we get our degrees now. Not being on campus hampers that, yet again. Having a home in China makes this situation all the more complex, because I need a student visa issued by NYUSH to return to Tianjin. 

NYU Shanghai Student · Class of 2024

As a freshman, I don’t have any complaints from the email because I will be able to start university in China. When Duke Kunshan announced that they would not be able to get the visas for their students, I was nervous the same would happen with NYUSH, and I absolutely dreaded the idea of starting university online. My main concern was starting university in China, and obviously that has been solved.

NYU Shanghai Student · Class of 2022

I feel the course of action taken at NYUSH is the most disadvantageous for international minorities. Not only are our options limited, considering that the ‘go local’ option is not available in our countries, but we also don’t have the option to obtain student visas for alternative sites. 

When the coronavirus first started out in China, we had to fight for our right to travel to other global sites. Initially, it was not an option. The whole situation has made my friends and I feel that NYUSH admin supports the ‘already’ privileged and lets us-minorities suffer under the weak status of our passports and backgrounds. 

We do not want the same options as we are well aware that the passport situation and university sites are out of the administration’s hands, but we want equal alternatives or some compensation that supports equity of treatment.

These specific concerns that affect multiple students have yet to be addressed by the administration. OCA has since reached out to NYU Shanghai’s representatives for a statement.

* Some interviewees requested to be anonymous. Email managing@oncenturyavenue.com if you have questions with the information.

This article was written by Isabella Cuellar. Please send an email to ic1104@nyu.edu to get in touch.
Photo Credit
: Aly Song (Reuters) 1581096284_002635_1581096476_noticia_normal_recorte1.jpg

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