COVID-19 Continues to Disrupt the NYU Shanghai Study Away Experience

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NYU Shanghai’s Academic Advising team released the much-anticipated Fall 2021 Study Away application on Tuesday, March 9. But students continue to face uncertainty surrounding the future of their study away experience. 

With three degree-granting campuses and a collection of 12 Global Sites, NYU has long been renowned for its study abroad opportunities. From Accra, Ghana, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, NYU Shanghai students have been able to pursue a wide range of academic and cultural immersion programs.

Whereas academic ambitions and wanderlust once motivated students to Study Away, now health concerns and travel restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic define how students consider the NYU Shanghai Study Away experience.

The Spring 2021 semester marks the third semester of cancelled Study Away programs. For many NYUSH students, cancelled Study Away programs add to the list of opportunities they’ve missed out on, as a result of the pandemic.

Kevin Nader, Class of 2022, is one of the many students whose Study Away experiences have been affected.

“I had planned to Study Away a full year in New York City, and ended up doing so with the Go Local program,” he said. “However, after one semester in New York City, I wanted instead to branch out and try a different Global Site. With COVID-19, I no longer had that option,” he added.

For other students, NYU’s Global Sites played a large role in their decision to attend NYU Shanghai.

“I chose NYU Shanghai over other Chinese universities because of the Study Away opportunities,” said Maga Grafe, Class of 2024.

Hugo Wang, Class of 2023, had plans for Studying Away at NYU’s New York and Prague campuses during his junior year.

“I was excited to attend NYU Shanghai because I could Study Away for a year and pick wherever I wanted. I liked that it was guaranteed,” he said.

Despite COVID-19’s disruption to previous semesters, the NYUSH administration has higher hopes for the continuation of Study Away programs in Fall of 2021.

NYUSH Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman announced in an email on Sunday, March 7, that the administration believes students will be more likely to obtain the necessary student visas needed to pursue Study Away at Global Sites.

“Our best assessment is that the more likely scenario for travel is the ‘mobility scenario,’” Lehman said in the email.

The announcement comes just in time for the Class of 2023, whose Study Away experience has not yet been interrupted. The traditional Study Away experience for NYUSH students applies in their junior year, during which most students choose to study abroad at Global Sites.

However, Lehman’s announcement also called for students to make a “Plan B,” in case travel is not possible for the Fall 2021 semester. Many students are considering remaining in Shanghai, or in other cities around the world where they have been taking classes remotely.

For Chanel Shen, Class of 2023, the situation is even more complicated.

“Before the email from Vice Chancellor Lehman about Study Away came out, I’d made my own Plan A and B. I was planning on Studying Away at NYU Sydney, with NYU Shanghai as my plan B,” said Shen.

However, the recent email from Academic Advising releasing the Study Away application also announced that NYU Sydney would not be enrolling students for in-person instruction during Fall of 2021.

“I’m hoping that there won’t be any more significant changes. COVID-19 has forced a lot of us to adapt our academic plans, and I have to make a new plan, even as the circumstances keep changing,” Shen said.

It isn’t just the Class of 2023 who are affected by the recent announcement. Members of the Class of 2022 are also considering Studying Away in Fall of 2021. For some students, a Fall semester at a Global Site would make up for the opportunities they missed last year. 

Nader is choosing between spending his Fall semester at NYU Florence, or remaining in Shanghai for his Senior year. 

He explained why it is a hard decision to make.

“I’m really interested in NYU Florence, but I’m worried that my status as a senior will limit my chances of being accepted to the program. I also don’t know if I want to spend my senior year away from Shanghai,” said Nader.

When asked if he would consider Studying Away during his Senior year, given that Fall 2021 Study Away is cancelled, Wang offered similar sentiments.

“There is a lot to do for graduation, and being out of Shanghai would complicate things,” he said.

The recent announcements surrounding Study Away have implications even for the Class of 2024, many of whom have spent their first year at NYU Shanghai taking online classes remotely.

For these students, spending their junior year Studying Away may further limit the amount of time they will spend studying in Shanghai during their undergraduate careers. 

Many international students on campus now will be staying in Shanghai over the summer, given continuing travel restrictions. For some students, this will affect whether they decide to Study Away in Fall of 2021, or even later.

“I think summers in Shanghai will make people more inclined to Study Away. For students like me who were previously online, summers will already make up for the lost time in Shanghai,” said Grafe.

Health concerns have also influenced students’ plans for Study Away. Wang suggests that many students may not want to Study Away in the Fall, given that the pandemic hasn’t been globally contained.

Ninad Mukherjee, Class of 2023, also worries about being in New York during the Fall, due to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.

“I need to take certain economics classes at NYU New York for my major, but I’m worried about leaving Shanghai, where it is safe to study,” said Mukherjee.

As students grapple with Study Away ambitions, senior year logistics, making up for lost time in Shanghai, and COVID-19 concerns, the Office of Global Programs continues to monitor international travel and immigration guidelines in preparation for the Fall 2021 semester.

It remains to be seen how the NYU Shanghai Study Away experience will continue to be interrupted by COVID-19. 

Until then, students are encouraged to submit their Fall 2021 Study Away applications by April 1, and meet with their academic advisors to develop a suitable plan for the next semester.

This article was written by Mia Barkenaes currently based in Shanghai, China. Please send an email to to get in touch.

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