As the year ends, I look back with pleasure on highlights of the last twelve months. A major highlight of this year for me has been the recognition of so many of our students for their outstanding academic and professional achievements. Several LS students and recent graduates received competitive scholarships and awards in 2015, illustrating the talents of our students and their commitment to seeking opportunities for growth.

Below is a selection of these honors:

NYU Leadership Fellowship: University-wide, year-long program that builds capacity in undergraduates for working ethically, inclusively, and collaboratively with others on a common purpose. The 2015-16 fellows number 23 in total, with three from LS:

Lousia Bahet (Core/CAS ’17)
Shiri Hanau (GLS ’18)
RJ Khalaf (GLS ’18)

Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship: Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, this grant supports American students studying or interning abroad.

Abida Ali (GLS ’17) – Awarded scholarship for junior year in Madrid.

Rosalyn DeMesa (GLS ’17) – Awarded scholarship for junior year in Shanghai.

Critical Language Scholarship: Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, this award funds intensive overseas language and cultural immersion for American students studying underrepresented languages.

Ariela Garvett (GLS ’15) – Received award to study Arabic in Tunisia.

Costanza Maio (GLS ’15) – Received award to study Arabic in Jordan; also a 2014 recipient.

Fulbright Program: Sponsored by the U.S. government, this program provides grants for study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs in a host country outside the U.S.

Eli Freedman (GLS ’15) – Received Fulbright-Hays Program grant to study Chinese language at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, China.

Nicholas Grassi (GLS ’12) – Former international trade consultant; received grant to study international business and diplomacy through Deloitte while earning MBA credits in Mexico.

Christina Jang (GLS ’13) – Former program manager; received grant to mentor Fulbright English Teaching Assistants in Brazil following completion of her own English Teaching Assistantship in the same community.

Soros Fellowship: Supports immigrants or the children of immigrants in their graduate study at any university in the U.S.

Eugene Rusyn (Core/CAS ’13) – Born in Kiev, in the former Soviet Union, and currently a JD candidate at Yale Law School; received fellowship to support work towards JD in law.

Join me in congratulating these deserving scholars! I wish you a restful winter break and a happy new year.

Brendan Hogan is a Master Teacher in Liberal Studies, based in New York City. This academic year he is teaching first-year Liberal Studies students at NYU London. Below he gives us a glimpse into what that experience is like for him and for his students.

Okay, the title of this post was either the above or Warren Zevon (Google it!), and while this reference evokes a spirit perhaps out of step with contemporary London, well, it’s The Clash, so, QED. Plus, no monsters. (Don’t tell me you have to Google The Clash…) As the NYU Liberal Studies faculty member teaching at NYU London this year, I write with greetings and salutations from this fair city.

Big Ben

Big Ben, lit up at night.

Upon arriving in central London fresh from the airport and an overnight flight this summer, I found myself towing my roll-away into the first coffee shop I saw. Stepping to the counter, and with the confidence of the seasoned traveler I take myself to be, I found myself ordering my coffee in terms quite pronounced in volume and at a very slow pace: “I WOULD LIKE A COFFEE WITH MILK.” To which the barista opened her eyes quite wide and said in equally steady, heightened, and cheerfully mocking tones, ‘OK!’ And suddenly it hit me, that my experience teaching at other NYU global sites had been so fraught with linguistic challenges that my habits had prepared me for something that was no longer necessary. English is spoken here, and this has only highlighted for me the impact of language in travel and study abroad.

There is a flip side to this linguistic access English provides, however, that has become increasingly apparent to me. The access a shared language offers can often provide an illusion of understanding and assumptions of mutual intelligibility that are constantly falsified. Every custom, from tipping for a service to greeting a colleague, varies by culture. In some ways, a shared language lulls one into a false sense of familiarity, and part of what one learns in navigating this new city is how subtle social cues and meanings can be, how different. NYU London students, though several have come from non-native English speaking backgrounds, navigate all of the above from their unique backgrounds, now in a community of learning.

In addition to learning a new city, students are also, in a way, non-native speakers to the great philosophical works of the global tradition. Indeed, these works share with an unfamiliar city their strangeness and unintelligibility, their awe-inspiring visions and foreign demands. Indeed, their difficulty. In Social Foundations 1, LS students find themselves searching the unfamiliar terrain of the British Museum, hunting for specific material and cultural representatives of the time and geography of the book of Job, for instance, posing fundamental questions about human existence. Next semester we will read and then visit the actual Magna Carta. Again, we will attempt to bridge the distance between one of the remarkable origins of human rights ‘in the flesh’, and today’s much different world. In time, though, London itself will emerge as one of the great and inspiring works of human thought and imagination, right outside their door for an entire academic year.

Plato Road street sign

London corner that illustrates Plato never goes out of style.