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NYU Buenos Aires Students on Allyship and Trans Activist Alba Rueda

Ally Week is important across the NYU community. Here, three students from NYU Buenos Aires, Matthew Gibson, Ellen Heaghney, and Maritza Rico, share how they observed this tradition. Matthew is a junior in Gallatin studying Globalization who chose to study at NYU Buenos Aires to improve his Spanish skills and take advantage of the internship program. Ellen is a junior in Global Liberal Studies with a focus in Politics, Rights and Development and a double major in Spanish. She chose to come to Buenos Aires for the full academic year to improve her Spanish and also because after taking a course on International Human Rights she became very interested in the political history of Argentina. Martiza is a junior majoring in Latin American Studies who came to NYU Buenos Aires to learn more about the history and literature of Argentina in preparation for writing her senior thesis.

Ally Week in Buenos Aires – Conversation with Alba Rueda

Ally Week in Buenos Aires, an annual tradition across New York University’s global network, culminated last week after three days of discussion of culturally specific approaches to allyship in Argentina. On April 11th, NYU Buenos Aires welcomed Argentine professor and Trans activist, Alba Rueda, to have a conversation with students about the history of Trans movements in the country and her current work on the issue. Rueda currently serves as the president of Trans Women Argentina in addition to her work with the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism.

Rueda set the stage for her discussion by explaining that although Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize marriage equality, there still remains plenty of work in the fight for equality, for example the recognition of transgender identities in schools. She also illustrated a timeline of the relationship, fraught with tension, between the police and Argentine society, and in particular the LGBTQ community. She explained the persecution that arose during the last military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s and the ways in which traces of this discrimination are still very much present today. Rueda brought with her the personal testimony of a friend, who explained her struggle as a Trans individual in Argentine society. This individual was so often targeted by the police that she grew accustomed to being arrested, and even remembers being arrested three times in a single day. Her life was so often disrupted that she lost her job, and she always left the house with a change of clothes, just in case.

Beginning in the 1980’s, social organizations emerged to tackle the issue of persecution of queer communities like what this woman faced. Over time these organizations gained influence and won important victories, but they faced obstacles as well. Argentina as a nation is heavily influenced by its Catholic history–not to mention that the current pope is from Buenos Aires. Catholic organizations were large opponents in the fight for equality and recognition, and Rueda still remembers the moment Pope Francis proclaimed that God was against them.

Nonetheless, organizations like Rueda’s persevered, and with time were key players in important social change. In 2010, marriage equality was legalized, and in the following years rights for the queer community, especially Trans people, were increasingly protected. Soon, Argentine’s of any age were granted the right to change their name and gender officially on documents without any justification other than their own word. And throughout it all, those same organizations that fought for equality, were turned to in order to develop the content of new legislation. Today, Rueda emphasizes the importance for the Trans community of having role models–trans men and women who are respected and accepted in Argentine society.

Of course, there are still many challenges and more progress to be made. But we are at a point that Rueda never thought she would see in her entire life. From her point of view, more people than ever before are comfortable going out into the streets and living their lives. Thanks to the hard work of community leaders like Rueda, positive change was achieved in Argentina. A particularly impactful part of the talk with Rueda was the important reminder that LGBTQ communities are specific to local cultural nuances. She reminded us that each community, although in theory universal, still holds specific spaces that need to be understood and studied with local lenses and historical contexts in mind.   Today, they continue their work, part of which includes education and awareness, such as speaking to students like those of us at NYU Buenos Aires – teaching us all how to understand and contextualize Trans movements around the world, and be better allies moving forward.

Three NYU Shanghai Juniors on Their Decisions to Study Away

NYU’s global presence is an important part of what distinguishes the university. And study away is an integral experience for students from NYU Shanghai and NYU Abu Dhabi.. Here, three NYU Shanghai juniors share their study away stories from Buenos Aires to Berlin.

Lizzie LeClaire ’18

Global China Studies Major

Study Away Sites: NYU Madrid and NYU Buenos Aires

Enlightenment is a funny thing. You never know when it’s going to hit you. For Lizzy LeClaire, the moment of truth came when she found herself the only non-Chinese person in her Shanghai yoga class. The teacher was giving instructions in Mandarin and Lizzy, who was born and raised in Boston, understood what she was saying. “I’d been practicing my Mandarin, but this was a real litmus test,” says Lizzy, who is majoring in Global China Studies in order to gain an understanding of the country’s educational system. “For the first time, even as I was twisted into a pretzel, I felt accomplished and ready to go beyond the classroom.”

What Lizzy did with her new fluency was travel to a rural village in the Fujian Province to observe a small primary school. “Because many people in China are leaving the villages for the cities in search of work, small schools are being shut down due to declining enrollment. I wanted to see how this trend affected the teachers and students,” she says.

Education is highly valued in China, and although a school may have just a few students and maybe one teacher, there is still a strong desire to keep going. “I saw with my own eyes the excitement in the children’s eyes as they were being taught, and it made me realize that no matter where they live or what their parents do, kids want to learn,” says Lizzy. It was then she realized that educational activism, a movement that works to improve educational access for all children worldwide, was what she wanted to concentrate on.

“My time in China was so valuable as far as opening my eyes to the possibilities of advancing education in other rural areas, but I knew, to complete my studies, I would have to see other places,” says Lizzy. One of the countries on her wish list was Spain. “The reason I chose NYU Madrid for my junior year was to gain fluency in Spanish. I figured that by being fluent in three of the most widely spoken languages in the world, I could go wherever I was needed most.” Now in Buenos Aires, Lizzy is perfecting her Spanish. “My favorite part of being in Argentina is living with a host family and learning what they really value in life. Education is something that is held in high regard here, and it’s reaffirmed my commitment to improving educational opportunities in different parts of the world.”

Bo Donners ’18

Global China Studies Major

Study Away Site: NYU Berlin

An avid traveler and hiker, Bo Donners ‘18 shares her study away experience in Berlin, her internship in New York and her advice of waking up to be amazed where you are every single morning.

What Was Your ‘Global Experience’ Like Before Coming To NYU Shanghai?

I’m from The Netherlands, and I’m majoring in Global China Studies with plans to double major in Social Science. I’ve studied in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at UWC — a global NGO that aims to unite people, cultures and nations for sustainable development by education.

Besides studying abroad, I love to travel, hike and camp with my family in many different countries. I’ve hiked in Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, and also a mountain four hours away from New York City.

Why Did You Choose To Study Away In Berlin? What Was It Like?

It was really a choice between traveling somewhere I hadn’t been before–like Ghana or Buenos Aires–or advancing  towards my future. Berlin is a big, alternative center of Europe, a great hub for young people and especially for start-ups. It felt familiar to me; it’s not far from my home, and in fact after spending all of last semester there, I became pretty fluent in German, which is similar to Dutch, my mother tongue. Being back in Europe, I was able to reflect on what I’ve learned from my experiences abroad, and how they are applicable to my own  culture.

What Was The Best Thing About Studying Away?

Building connections with a professor who taught a social environmental movement class, and establishing the future possibility of working on projects with him and his company. In general, I value being in a new environment where you can meet and learn from people who have different backgrounds. Regardless if at first it seems irrelevant to your future plans, exposure to other cultures will only benefit how you work in an international environment. My advice is: be amazed every single morning.

And You Had An Internship In New York?

In New York I interned at The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) an NGO branch of the United Nations. The organization depended on my note-taking in conferences and I also wrote daily reports for them to  assist in how they could inform their partners about our progress and cause. I worked at  a climate change conference, did some lobbying, and found it exciting to see how people from multiple nations come together to work on international issues and develop policies.

Ma Teng (Martin) ‘18

IMA Major

Study Away Site: NYU Abu Dhabi

Driven by graphic design, IMA major Teng Ma (Martin) ‘18 used his study away semester at NYU Abu Dhabi to join the basketball team, introduce  a logo to the sheikh of Abu Dhabi, and contemplate how to open up design jobs in his northeast China hometown.

Why did you choose to study away at NYU Abu Dhabi?

I’m an IMA major who is passionate about technology, graphic design and basketball. The year before my study away, I had visited New York as an actor for the NYU Reality Show, and I wanted to explore Abu Dhabi to complete my travel among the three main global sites. I also had heard many good reviews about the design courses there from friends–plus, I couldn’t resist the fact that they had a state of the art indoor basketball court.

What was it like for you there?

I joined the basketball team–practice was rigorous and as early as 6:30am–I took up boxing and other fitness activities, and made a lot of friends with whom to explore the city. I loved the courses I took; a friend recommended a class called Yes Logo, taught by Goffredo Puccetti. In that course, we designed logos for WWF–the panda logo, as well as a logo for Italy and UAE’s 45 Years Celebration. My logo was picked in the top 3 of all the students’ individual designs. Professor Puccetti taught us through direct experience–from start to end, from brainstorming, using software and creating finished products.  We even presented our WWF logo to the sheikh, who was impressed.

Along with design, I took a painting course and a strategic management course out of pure interest. And I believe that studying across disciplines will inform how I approach graphic design in my future plans. Learning about how people succeed and what they do to reach their goals was eye opening for me.

One the best experiences was making new friends in Abu Dhabi who are now visiting me at NYU Shanghai while they study away here for a semester. It’s really cool that our adventures together will continue.

Where are you interning and what will you do in the future?

I am currently interning at Bigger Lab, an educational startup aimed at high schoolers in China and based in Puxi, Shanghai. I am helping them meet their various design and branding needs as well as create a new visual identity. After graduation I will probably work in Shanghai for a while. But, I’m keeping an eye out for opportunities in my hometown, Changchun in Jilin province.

My hometown is far from being a big city like Shanghai. Maybe right now people aren’t paying much money to focus on branding and development of logos, but I want to eventually return and empower people there with the experiences I’ve gained in Shanghai and abroad. I want provide opportunities for other people to learn about and understand brand consulting, especially how having design skills can benefit their endeavors.

NYU Steinhardt in Hong Kong: Forging Pathways to Sustainability

This spring, a graduate class from NYU Steinhardt traveled to Hong Kong to collaborate in visionary plans to protect Hong Kong’s ecological heritage. The class is taught by Prof. Raul Lejano, who integrates the international field studies workshop with his ongoing research on urban resilience in Asia.

Over two weeks in January, the students collaborated with nonprofits and others in Hong Kong to craft strategies for integrating the urban and the ecological. They were even joined by Dom Brewer, Dean of the Steinhardt School, for a day or trekking in the field.

The rest of the semester was then spent analyzing data and preparing deliverables which are then presented to stakeholders in Hong Kong for actual implementation. This year, students sorted themselves into four projects.

  1. Hoi Ha Nature Trail and Masterplan

    Map of Hoi Ha Nature Trail and Cultural Heritage Site

Maegan Ciolino, Yunshun Yang, Rachel Baruch

The group sought to create ways for local residents to cherish (and protect) the coastal wetlands and mangrove in Hoi Ha, an area in Sai Kung District, Hong Kong. To do this, they worked with Friends of Hoi Ha to design, stake out, and geo-reference a nature trail, complete with interpretive signs (map shown below). The project took a surprising turn when the group retraced an old, abandoned boulder trackway built by Hakka settlers almost two hundred years ago. They integrated the historical pathway into the new nature trail to provide the visitor an experience of history and ecology. Friends of Hoi Ha is working with the Environmental Minister to formally incorporate the nature trail into the nature master plan for Hoi Ha.

  1. Mangroves and Me: A Nature Lesson for Young Ecologists

RaeJean Boyd, Anna Hoch, Barbara Leary, Kym Mendez

Another group of graduate students worked with a local elementary school, Hong Kong Academy, to design and conduct a half-day nature lesson revolving around the ecology of Hoi Ha. Their vision for the learning experience was to integrate play and experiential, place-based learning to engage fifth graders in environmental action. Learning about mangrove and wetlands was integrated with hands-on activities, including kayaking, planting mangrove propagules, and identifying freshwater insects. Assessment revolved around interpretive drawings that the kids created to capture the day’s activities. The lesson is being formally integrated into the Academy’s curriculum.

NYU Steinhardt Students Conducting Nature Lesson for Fifth Graders of Hong Kong Academy

  1. Sustainable Housing for Pak Sha O

Fatima Ahmed, Zhe Huang, Danni Lu, Pamela Razo, Yiyi Shi

Traditional Hakka Village Housing in Pak Sha O

Pak Sha O is a traditional Hakka village in Sai Kung, Hong Kong, where the old village houses have been preserved by its current residents. The government has made plans to put in new housing in Pak Sha O. NYU students have written up a set of design recommendations for new housing in this ecologically and culturally important area. The specs include: adaptation of Hakka housing elements for the exterior, application of Feng Shui design concepts for the interior, wind turbines, and advanced septage treatment. An interesting facet of the design concerns the intersection of cultural and environmental elements –e.g., agreement between traditional Feng Shui concepts and newer sustainable design principles.

  1. Seafood Tourism and Coastal Heritage in Sai Kung

Xiao Huang, Alex McIe, Tommy V. Le

Sustainable Cities Class with Dean Brewer in Sai Kung

The area of Sai Kung is popular with tourists for its renowned seafood restaurant row. However, seafood tourism goes on seemingly disconnected with the rich heritage of Sai Kung as a fishing village. NYU students trace the cultural and cuisinary pathways that make up seafood tourism in the town. Their ethnographic study has led to recommendations for making the fishing culture and coastal ecology alive for visitors to the area. The guide includes a walking tour of Sai Kung and an ethnography of the local seafood industry.

The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas – Exhibition Inauguration at NYU Florence

On April 26, NYU Florence will celebrate the opening of a new exhibition, The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas. The exhibition includes fresco portraits by Fabrizio Ruggiero and projects by NYU Florence students: Angy Aguilar, Delaney Beem, Josefina Dumay Neder, Yuming Lu, Samantha Sofia Sneider, and Allegra Venturi. The exhibition will be in place from April 26 to June 18.

 The exhibition The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas pays homage to nine​ ​individuals​ ​who have​ ​worked for​ ​social justice, equality, and human dignity​ ​and have been recognized as thought leaders by the international community. The artist​ ​Fabrizio Ruggiero​ ​chose the pictorial language of fresco painting​ ​for the portraits, ​that​ he believes ​“forms the ideal medium to portray the human face”.

NYU Florence students worked​ ​with the artist throughout the semester ​​to understand​ ​his​ ​criteria​ ​for selecting ​subjects for his frescos and ​his artistic engagement with the public in a dialogue about the ideas his subjects represent. Students reflected on thought leaders in their own lives and the​ ​criteria they use to determine them.

The portraits were first exhibited in June 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations and the campaign “Time for Global Action”.

NYU Florence Student Qixiu Fu Writes on Viareggio Carnevale

Today we hear from Qixiu Fu, a first year student at NYU Florence. She is thinking about majoring in psychology and feels fortunate discovered Florence. So much so that she is considering returning for Fall 2017.

Photo credit – Jasmine Zhang, first year student at NYU Florence

Un Viaggio a Viareggio Carnevale

In two minutes, the sign up for Viareggio Carnevale was full. I was so excited that I got a spot on this free OSL (Office of Student Life) trip to Viareggio to visit one of the fascinating carnivals in Italy. The first Carnival of Viareggio took place in 1873 when there was a small parade of decorated carriages organized by the wealthy people of the city. Other local citizens were annoyed by their display of wealth, so they decided to wear masks to protest the high taxes they had to pay and to show disrespect toward the ruling upper classes.

For our trip, we took a private bus to Viareggio and enjoyed a guided tour about the history of carnevale and this year’s floats. The guide told us that today Viareggio Carnevale keeps its tradition of speaking out. Talented artists, local citizens and tourists are all part of this powerful “protest”. After we received our entrance tickets from the OSL staff, we followed our guide to the parade area where we learned about floats designed to imitate and poke fun at the world’s leaders, politicians, celebrities, and current events.

Photo credit – Jasmine Zhang, first year student at NYU Florence

This year, politics was in the spotlight. What amazed me the most was the dedication each team put into their choice of float design, choreographed dance, costumes, makeup, and music. Before visiting Viareggio, my impression of Italy was stereotyped to its good wine, delicious food and attitude of enjoying life. Then, I saw a different personality of Italy in Viareggio, the active and energetic one. Viareggio is a place where you can relax by the beach and enjoy the chilly breeze of early spring, but it is also a place where you can immerse yourself in the fantasy and surreal colors of carnevale!

NYU Prague’s Latest PragueCast Explores Youth














The latest edition of PragueCast, a podcast with stories of Prague told through the eyes of NYU Prague students coordinated by BBC correspondent Rob Cameron. With Cameron’s guidance, the students produce 20-minute editions, each with a different theme chosen by students, and distribute it to a wide audience. Students write, record, produce, edit, and market the episodes – all as a non-credit internship. Read more about the origins of the program in an earlier Global Dimensions conversation with Cameron and participating students here. The program has now been running for three years. Themes covered have included topics as divers as dreams. refuge, searching, thirst, and the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The latest edition is focused on Youth.

Youth – wasted on the young, as George Bernard Shaw famously said? Or is that unkind? What are the dreams and aspirations of Czech kids today? Why do so many Czech women (and men) pursue the elusive goal of youthful looks? And what do the elderly think of the young people of today? Tune in to find out! Listen here.

Patrick Virgie speaks to the not-so-young about the youth of today.

So, what are the dreams and aspirations of Czech kids today? According to Patrick Virgie, an NYU Prague student and PragueCast member who spent time with elderly Czechs to find out what they think of young people today, “No matter the cultural, political or age difference, at the end of the day, … we all just want to come together, tell a good story, and share a good laugh.”

Working with Cameron, the PragueCast team visited a local senior citizen’s home, a school, a plastic surgeon and interviewed people on their street about their opinions on the theme. Every semester, the PragueCast releases 2-3 episodes that explore Czech politics, society, and culture.

PragueCasters Onyeka Osih and Aine Marie Policastro hit the streets to ask Czech women for their beauty tips – how do they stay young, and for whom?

“Working with Rob is amazing, and doing the podcast has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” reported one member of the team this semester.  This is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring journalists, writers, or students who want to learn more about the Czech Republic in an active way.

You can download the Youth podcast here or find all of the episodes on thePragueCast site. Happy listening!


Two NYU Abu Dhabi Students Launch One “Priceless” Support Program For Local Families

Starting a community program from scratch can be daunting. NYU Abu Dhabi students Hannah Taylor and Sally Oh — founders of the Family Friends community initiative for those touched by autism — know first-hand the roller coaster ride that pilot programs often are; scary yet exciting, nerve-wracking but fun, and definitely worth it in the end.

The inspiration for Family Friends — a series of weekend workshops — came from Taylor’s two years of conversations and experiences with the autism community in Abu Dhabi, including an internship with the Autism Support Network (ASN) — Abu Dhabi. The need for Family Friends was born because ASN and its founder, Nipa Bhupatani, highlighted the importance of holistic support for those touched by autism spectrum disorder.

Like all new community outreach initiatives, Family Friends took on a shape of its own. The end product was a hands-on experience centered around mindfulness, poetry and music. ASN families came to NYUAD campus on Saturdays over the course of four weeks to spend time with NYUAD students and faculty, workshop facilitators, and to learn from each other. Beyond new social support, the families took home concrete lessons for how to improve their daily lives using mindfulness.

“Hearing that parents have found key social support through the Family Friends program and have learned mindfulness lessons that they use in their daily lives makes all of our efforts more than worthwhile,” said Taylor.

“So many people offered their time, care, and passion to Family Friends,” added Oh. “It would simply not have been possible without their selfless enthusiasm.”

Both Taylor and Oh hope the Family Friends program will grow in the years to come and help form a strong, closely knit, friendly, and comfortable community of allies in Abu Dhabi that offer support for autism.

Community Collaborators

  • NYUAD Office of Community Outreach
  • Anna Kaminski, mindful learning expert, workshop facilitator
  • Student volunteers Katie Sheng and Anastasia Karavan
  • Bahareh, poetry thera pist
  • Jim Savio and Goffredo Puccetti, NYUAD faculty

2017 has been declared the Year of Giving in the UAE. NYUAD’s Office of Community Outreach and student volunteers give back to the community in many ways, by contributing time, skills and knowledge to the community. We call this drive for social good NYUAD Heart.

This post originally appeared on the NYU Abu Dhabi Salaam blog, available here.

NYU Shanghai Student Michael Lukiman Finds Interning while at NYU Tel Aviv “Life-Changing”

To conclude this series, we hear from an NYU Shanghai student who studied at NYU Tel Aviv, Michael Lukiman.

What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major?

My main campus is NYU Shanghai, though I originally come from Southern California. I am a senior in the first graduating class of this campus, with commencement in May 2017. My official major is neural science, the study and research of the brain.

What inspired you to study in Tel Aviv?

I had heard that Tel Aviv was a business-oriented city, indeed in a place labeled as the world’s “Startup Nation”. Additionally, I felt I had a lot of perspective to learn from such a unique country and region. Similar to the reason I decided to study in South America in the previous semester, I feel that the various segments of the world can have unimaginably different modes of thinking; to fully put the puzzle together, sampling each place by living there can give those different modes of thinking due respect or at least understanding (which can help negotiate conflicts). But ultimately, it sounded like an adventure.

How was your experience? What was most inspiring, surprising, or moving about your time there? What did you find challenging?

My experience was life-changing. I would often walk along the Hayarkon River in Tel Aviv’s North side. What surprised me was just how much it was like California in terms of geography and climate – golden beaches, chaparral, and hiking to boot. There’s a point where you realize that these places were more alike than alien. What moved me was feeling the sun on my skin and looking toward the Mediterranean ocean. What inspired me is the sense of unfaltering unity in the community of Tel Aviv, including that of the NYU staff. It was challenging being a clear foreigner, but even then it was easy to get by with curiosities and the effort to speak the language. It was a pretty safe atmosphere, getting to the statistics of it. More universally, it could be seen as challenging to approach political or cultural elephants in the room, but NYU provided an exceptionally safe space for doing so. Additionally interesting, my technology internship’s locale had me walking by goats, cows, chickens, and pastures – a peculiar and outstanding way to stay connected to nature in the “tech” sphere.

I understand that you interned with Israel Brain Technologies while at NYU Tel Aviv. Can you tell us about how you came to intern there? Is this an academic internship or non-credit internship?

I like the feeling of creating something unique and emotional – and curious about how things work (and how we can make them work), notably the brain. When mixing this startup spirit with my academic major of neuroscience, finding Israel Brain Technologies allowed me to handle practical, real, and serious implementations of neuroscience-oriented ideas on a daily basis. I’d like to thank Ms. Ilana Goldberg, the internship coordinator, for being a very effective and important liaison in finding this perfect fit. I interviewed with her over Skype a couple months prior to starting, and everything was connected for this non-credit internship (it provided much more value than a couple credits). In this startup accelerator supported by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and former prime minister Shimon Peres, I worked closely with Miri Polachek and Yael Fuchs to get involved in all levels of an industry where business, science, and entrepreneurship lock eyes.

What did your work involved? How did you find the experience?

In an accelerator, there are multiple stages: first, you need to select which companies are promising and worthy of your resources, then spend months polishing their efficiency, marketing, and product through training and meetings (because nothing is perfect off the bat), and finally, connect and demonstrate their value to the investors. I had privilege of helping to organize the judging rounds to decide which final dozen or so of the upwards of fifty companies would come under IBT’s wing, thereby earning me the key opportunity to sit in on the board meetings and serious decision-making discussions behind the table. How does an idea go from paper to effectively profiting and providing value in the community? I played a part in learning the financing infrastructure of such an institution, as well as being able to connect one-on-one with entrepreneurs of these companies, in Israel of all places, the country with the most startups per capita. More importantly, I could learn what life was like day-to-day in an industry like this – the meetings, the organization, the challenges, the jargon, hierarchy, and not to mention how long their workdays were.

As I understand it, Israel Brain Technologies is a non-profit that seeks to accelerate the commercialization of Israel’s brain-related innovation and establish Israel as a leading international brain technology hub. Did being there feel as though you were at the crossroads of the non-profit, tech and start-up worlds? How would you best describe the organization, its mission, and how it influences the development of brain technologies?

Yeah, it was definitely a sweet mix of all things entrepreneurial and scientific! Moreover, it was grounded. There were no obsessive metrics, although there was an emphasis on overall social impact and how much money would be needed. You could emphasize simple rules like: Who would use this? Why is this important? Why is it better? How do we get there? What’s the market like? Is it possible? Is it efficient? When you mix the detailed pace of truth-finding science with the expedience of business, it kinda becomes like engineering. The mission of Israel Brain Technologies to me was to address a silo of business that we once saw as impossible or overly complicated – empowering companies with exciting ideas, some of which sought to allow you to control machines just with your thoughts (not physically impossible), or companies that were out to cure and assist those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other disabilities. These are companies that, if successful, could add thousands of years of quality of life around the world – and some of these breakthroughs are already in practice today. That’s invaluable. To make these groups successful, we need to think about money, resources, and how to get themselves to the people that want to hear about them. I knew this internship was genuine because the type of the people working there – many of whom are mothers who are wonderfully leading the mission while managing to care for their kids. Those concurrent activities vest you into anything you do.   

Do you feel as though the work you did as an intern has been valuable? Has working for Israel Brain Technologies changed your understanding of innovation is promoted? Or the various manners in which we are seeking to use technology for the brain? If so, can you describe how?

In every internship, my main objective is to learn insights and work my way up a knowledge, wisdom, and community ladder. I like the simple heuristic to provide a new conceptual continent, or at least district on the map, so to speak. There, one could either mentally rest or return to when needed. Israel Brain Technologies has given me the most in terms of this, where I can think about science in relation to business and money, and hence what I’m studying in relation to what other people are experiencing. I learned that starting a company is both overwhelmingly complex and simple. I learned that pressure is just reflective of how much you can offer – if you aren’t thinking in the right mode, no matter how hard you try, you can’t get into the right arena. Most of all, it assured me that neuroscience is still the promising new frontier that I first saw when choosing it for my initial college career – generally, anything that most people can entertain as science-fiction and then be surprised about when someone tells you it’s a real product is society’s current sweet spot of discovery. On the honest flipside, I learned that lots of people don’t have what it takes to really think in a risk-welcoming, conflict-welcoming endeavor while still focusing on the big picture. Something gets in the way and creates tunnel vision with the companies that we didn’t accept, either pride, doubt, or lack of enthusiasm. You’ve really got to objectively focus on what you’re doing, at least if you want to make it exceptional. Either have a good track record or a good spirit – anything less, you can imagine people will not demand as much. That’s just a lose-lose for both you and the people. For startups, this means accepting when something is just a plain bad idea, or maybe realizing that something is a good idea when everyone else says it is bad. For neuroscience, there’s a realization that anything a brain can do, a computer may eventually do, given some bureaucracies. This fact in turn humbles anyone. A brain just just another component which we can funnel technology through; it can decay or be sharpened. So I think it’s logical use it wisely by getting an internship that keeps it on its toes.

How do you feel your internship experience has complemented your academic experience at NYU Tel Aviv?

It’s hard to think of a way which my classes related to my internship. That’s probably a good thing, since sticking to one main behavior in a new country can easily put a cone around your head to experiences. I mostly took politics courses, as well as a linguistics course about Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages of the region. It’s a cop-out, but I can say that language and socially/tribally-driven politics has a reserved space for neuroscience because knowing the brain can help us anticipate and navigate these once irreducible landscapes. It’s what I’ve always said to myself. But one could say that about any field. In my classes, we talked about dictatorship, religion, and all sorts of controversial things. I do have to say that it’s a good exercise to think how our brain is lighting up when discussing these topics that are close to home, where so much identity is on the line for a lot of people. There may be a latent element there that can help us prevent conflict and ease tensions, just like how we discovered more empathy and personal stories can increase donations to charity. Another link is that running successful companies and running successful governments have their parallels, although on different scales. One similarity is that you’ve got to care for your people or else you’re not going to have a good time.

Has your time studying at NYU Tel Aviv or your experience in either internship informed your thinking about your future plans? If so, how?

Because of these experiences in Tel Aviv, I realize there’s a lot of work to be done not only in creating new things but fixing old ones. So it’s Silicon Valley with a more evocative twist. It put me on the other side of the table – after judging other companies, now I judge myself: I have my work ethic, and that provides a certain amount of value to people. How much does brain research mean to a government or economy whose main metric is still profit or gross output? How much will working 100 hours a week and dotting every “i” marginally increase what we can do opposed to what I can experience or share with other people outside of work? And how much are my genetics and environment really going to allow me/us to accomplish? These are questions that being on the other side of the table taught me. There’s a generic match in every institution, and being in Tel Aviv thinking of different governing styles and judging different companies begged the question to find what unique features groups really need to break ceilings. Ultimately, this experience in Tel Aviv showed me the real world of business as well as the real, firsthand world of political strife, as far as I know of course. In other places, we may take big corporations and an established government for granted, whereas they are only as solid as allowed, not to say that they’re not strong. That is, although there’s a lot to learn, life has become a bit more transparent, at least to a 21-year-old me, through this experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time in Tel Aviv or while at NYU?

I recommend an experience like this, especially if you think you don’t quite fit the bill, because the abrasion may just provide pearls of insight.

Zoya Teirstein Discusses Interning in Tel Aviv Affirming Her Environmental Journalism Plans

Zoya Teirstein studied at NYU Tel Aviv in the spring of 2016. She managed two internships while there and shares her experiences with us.

What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major?

I am a senior at Gallatin concentrating in Environmental Reporting.

What inspired you to study in Tel Aviv?

I signed up for the NYU Tel Aviv program just in the nick of time. I was planning on doing a backpacking semester in California, but it fell through at the last minute and I chose to go to Israel instead kind of on a whim. I had been to Israel a few years earlier on a summer program and loved it, so that definitely factored into my decision. I was also interested in journalism and politics–Tel Aviv has a lot of both. The semester in California was supposed to be all about sustainability, which is the second component of my concentration. While I was excited about studying journalism in Tel Aviv, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to immerse myself in environmental issues like I had planned. But I ended up interning for an environmental NGO and wound up learning a lot about what sustainability looks like in the Middle East.

How was your experience? What was most inspiring, surprising, or moving about your time there? What did you find challenging?

Tel Aviv is a lot like New York City in the sense that there’s always something going on. I was surprised how easy it was to feel comfortable there. When you move to a different place you expect to feel isolated, at least in the beginning. But that just wasn’t the case in Tel Aviv. Israelis are some of the most curious and friendly people, and I met interesting people almost every time I left the house. Unlike NYC, its sunny and warm almost every day, which is another incentive to go do things you wouldn’t normally do. I bought a used bike my first week there and used it to go to lectures at Tel Aviv University and find cool beaches, something I definitely wouldn’t be doing in New York in the middle of February.

I understand that you interned with the Haaretz Daily and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel while at NYU Tel Aviv. Can you tell us about how you came to intern at both places? Were these academic internships or non-credit internships?

I interned with Haaretz and SPNI during my semester in Tel Aviv, which took place in Spring 2016. I found out about SPNI through Ilana Goldberg, who is the internship coordinator at NYU Tel Aviv and an amazing resource for people looking to intern abroad. I interviewed during my first couple weeks in Tel Aviv and started working there shortly after. Haaretz is Israel’s leading newspaper and getting an internship there is hard to do. Haaretz doesn’t advertise its internships on its website, and finding a contact at the newspaper who can set you up with an internship is difficult. Also, Haaretz normally finds interns through third party organizations, usually jewish groups that specialize in setting students up with long-term internships in Israel. The only reason I got that internship is because I went to a Haaretz event in NYC the previous semester and spoke to some Haaretz journalists who were willing to help me out.

What did your work at each involve? How did you find the experiences?

Both experiences were pretty amazing. Working at Haaretz was cool because its a major newspaper in a relatively small country that has breaking news events on a daily, if not hourly, basis. The Middle East is extremely volatile, and the newsroom would often have to drop everything to cover a developing crisis (this happened almost every time I went into work). During my first month at Haaretz, there were a string of stabbings in Jerusalem. It would be like 5 p.m. on a Thursday and just as most of our journalists were getting ready to leave for the weekend (Friday is not a work day in Israel) we’d get a report through the wires that there was another stabbing and everything would dissolve into chaos for 30 minutes. I was learning how to write breaking news headlines during this time, which was stressful and often really sad.

My experience at SPNI was definitely less intense, but equally if not more rewarding. My first day there I was put in charge of monitoring and documenting fracking in the Golan Heights for the SPNI English website. A small company called Afek Oil and Co. was trying to drill for commercial oil in some of Israel’s most beautiful terrain, and SPNI was doing everything it could to block it. This story has all the makings of a great thriller (some of the people on the board of this tiny company include Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney, and Israel’s former housing minister). I won’t go into it here, but you can read my work on this campaign using this link: http://natureisrael.org/What-We-Do/golandrillingcampaign/golandrilling

I got to travel around Israel and interview water experts, environmental lawyers, and community activists. In America, an oil company might spill a few hundred thousand gallons of oil into a river and it can take years to get that company to pay for the damage it caused. Israel is much smaller than the United States, about the size of New Jersey, which means that when a community gets organized and tries to stop a corrupt company from exploiting natural resources, the federal government hears about it relatively quickly. This happened in the Judean lowlands, where a fracking company was stopped in its tracks by a coalition of informed civilians. I’d recommend interning at SPNI to almost anyone, regardless of how interested you are in saving the environment.

Do you feel as though the work you did as an intern has been valuable? Has working for the Haaretz Daily changed your understanding of journalism? And has your work with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel influenced how you think about environmental issues? If so, can you describe how?

Definitely. I had worked in a newsroom before going to Tel Aviv, but Haaretz is on a completely different playing field. Haaretz is considered far left of center, something a lot of Israeli’s don’t like. I learned early on not to tell people where I worked. An old lady yelled at me on the bus one time because she thought Haaretz was “tearing our country apart.”  But I think the work they do is important. Unlike a lot of other newspapers in Israel, Haaretz covers issues on both sides of the conflict and gives precedence to newsworthy issues that have to do with Palestinian rights. America is just starting to confront the reality of a Trump presidency, but Israelis have been dealing with right-wing extremism for a long time. Benjamin Netanyahu, a proponent of settlement expansion, began his fourth term as Israel’s Prime Minister in 2015. Haaretz has been trying to hold him accountable since his first day in office. I also learned how much work goes into combating environmental degradation during my internship with SPNI. You’d think even the most money-hungry oil company would look at the Golan Heights, see its importance as an agricultural hub, its propensity for seismic activity, and the enormous reservoir right at its center, and stop to do an environmental impact report before blasting chemicals hundreds of meters into the ground. SPNI had to employ slews of experts, lawyers, and community leaders in its effort to combat Afek, and that’s just one campaign! I have a lot of appreciation for the work journalists and environmentalists do on a daily basis.

How do you feel your internship experience has complemented your academic experience at NYU Tel Aviv?

NYU Tel Aviv is amazing, but it’s insular. The campus is in the north, far from the busy center of the city, and there was a tendency, at least in my semester, to hang out on campus. If you chose to study abroad chances are you planned on doing more than drinking beers in the NYU Tel Aviv courtyard with the kids on your program. Getting an internship is a great way to get out of the bubble and see new things.

Has your time studying at NYU Tel Aviv or your experience in either internship informed your thinking about your future plans? If so, how?

It renewed my conviction to pursue environmental reporting, something I hope to pursue (maybe in Israel).