NYU Shanghai Announces Revision of Go Local Policy Amid Changing Travel Circumstances

Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman announced in an email on Tuesday, November 18, that first-year and sophomore NYU Shanghai students pursuing Go Local can keep both of their Study Away semesters, effectively reversing the original restrictions of the policy.

The announcement comes amid further restrictions placed on international travel to Shanghai, hindering the return of many international students.

The announcement extends the current Go Local program. For the past two semesters, international students at NYUSH have had the option to take classes at an NYU Global Site for which they do not require a student visa.

In hopes of returning to campus as soon as possible, many opted for remote learning in the Fall semester.

“I chose remote learning for this semester because I hoped we would be on campus soon, but studying at home has been really challenging because you don’t have as many resources as you would in Shanghai,” said Lillie Yao, Class of 2023, who also pointed to the difficulties of reentering China.

“Now that we are able to return to Shanghai, it has been pretty difficult going through the process of getting a visa, securing a flight, and now, new travel restrictions,” she said.

With the delayed receipt of invitation letters to enter China, the new quarantine requirements, and the expenses piling up, some students are looking to Go Local as a possible alternative for the 2021 Spring semester.

Previously, the Go Local policy had limited NYUSH students by putting greater restrictions on Study Away. However, the new announcement from the administration extends the Spring 2021 Go Local policy deadline for first-year and sophomore students, and allows them to keep both of their semesters abroad.

The decision came as a reaction to changing circumstances. Vice Chancellor Lehman previously said in an email to all NYUSH students on October 8 that the Go Local policy was “not designed for our students,” as they would be allowed to return to Shanghai.

However, the newest difficulties with travel logistics and the growing list of additional expenses have led the administration to reconsider the restrictions.

Plane tickets to Shanghai have been increasingly limited during COVID-19. And with new restrictions, students are confined to certain airports from which to depart. Many flights to China have even been cancelled, and various embassies in Europe and Asia have limited student’s ability to obtain required health declaration forms.

Aside from the logistical difficulties, there are additional costs for returning to Shanghai.

Among other expenses, international students must pay for three COVID-19 tests, two weeks stay at an approved quarantine hotel in Shanghai, as well as plane tickets. Some students may also have to pay for transportation to the nearest Chinese consulate to approve their trip to Shanghai.

In an email from Dean of Students David Pe on October 9, NYUSH estimates the cost of quarantining in a hotel will be 200-500 RMB a night, with meals costing around 100 RMB per day. With these estimates, some international students are looking at additional costs of around 26,000-30,300 RMB to return to Shanghai.

These expenses come at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has driven millions of families around the world into financial hardship. Although some students are able to foot the bill, others rely on loans and would likely have to pay the additional costs out-of-pocket.

To ease these impacts, NYUSH has responded by providing students with multiple channels of support for travel and visa access. The Student Mobility team has worked tirelessly to secure students’ return to campus.

Because of the travel logistics and extra expenses, some students view Go Local as a more feasible option, and a way to stay connected with NYU.

Now, with the changes in the Go Local policy, students can make this choice without being required to substitute a semester of Study Away. These students will still be able to take advantage of the valuable experiences of the traditional Study Away semesters later in their career.

Study Away is an integral part of the NYUSH experience, with many students planning their academic track around these programs. As most students choose to Study Away during their junior year at NYUSH, it can also be an important element of class cohesion.

Justin Zotos, Class of 2021, is a fan.

“The highlight of my study away experience was definitely being able to tackle a new city with some of my Shanghai friends,” he said. “Not only was I able to continue exploring a new type of city life by going out to museums and concerts, but I was also able to continue living with my roommate from freshman year.”

For students who pursue Go Local, they will now be able to study at their preferred global site for the Study Away semesters. Assuming that the pandemic is controlled, they will be able to participate in cultural immersions and maintain their current academic plans.

However, some believe that the revisions in the policy have not gone far enough. Currently, the Go Local policy only allows first-year and sophomore students participating in the program to retain their Study Away semesters.

Karla Liwanes, Class of 2023, has firm thoughts on Go Local counting as a Study Away semester.

“When it comes to studying away, I think any seniors should be able to study away if they weren’t able to do the two semesters in their junior year because of COVID-19,” she said.

For students who are unexpectedly unable to return to Shanghai given the financial and logistical travel difficulties, the extension in the Go Local application deadline has provided alternate learning options.

In fact, the administration has not announced a new deadline, instead encouraging students to apply “as soon as possible.”

When asked how he felt about the recent announcement, Kevin Nader, Class of 2022, said “I think they did the right thing. It’s impossible to account for everyone’s situations right now, and this way they can let students decide for themselves how they want to handle next semester.”

There are signs that the administration may provide further options. Vice Chancellor Lehman said in an email on November 11:

“We are continuing to monitor the situation; if it does not change by November 30, we will provide you with a full list of options to consider as you prepare for course registration on December 7.”

Whether this announcement of the Go Local policy revision was the final list of options is unclear.

The administration has also encouraged students to meet with their academic advisors in order to address their individual circumstances and develop their course plans accordingly.

Photos: NYU website

This article was written by Mia Barkeanes currently based in Kristiansand, Norway. Please send an email to mab1468@nyu.edu or contact on Instagram @mia.barkenaes to get in touch.

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