This week, I have been visiting our students studying at NYU Paris. Last night, I was privileged to share Thanksgiving dinner with them at a lovely restaurant in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Sharng a Thanksgiving dinner in Paris

Bon appetit!

There is much for which to be thankful in Paris this year — that our first-year away students, our sophomores, and our GLS juniors are doing well; that Paris has rebounded after a difficult year; and that one of our Paris GLS students from last year, Melissa Godin (GLS ’17), has been named a Rhodes Scholar.

Most of all, I am thankful for our strong Liberal Studies community, that binds together students, faculty, and staff on Washington Square and across the Global Network.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Students and Dean Schwarzbach

Joining NYU Paris students to celebrate Thanksgiving.

If it’s Sunday, it must be London — and it is.  I have just concluded NYU Welcome Week by meeting 85 first-year Liberal Studies students at our London academic center in Bedford Square.

In the past week I’ve welcomed some 1250 Core Program and Global Liberal Studies students in five cities — Florence, London, Paris, Washington DC, and, of course, New York — in as many days.

Frankly, I should be exhausted by this whirlwind tour — but I am not.  I’ve met students from every region of the U.S. and from over 70 countries — all of whom now are part of the Liberal Studies community.  They are bright, they are talented, and they bring to NYU a wealth of diverse backgrounds, interests, and aspirations.

I spoke with students from all over the world — from Albania, Australia, China, Cuba, Germany, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Singapore, and Thailand, and many, many more.   I greeted students from great cities like Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Taipei, and from very small towns in California, Iowa, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.  Many of our new students have lived in several countries, and others applied for their first passports and took their first international journeys to join their NYU peers.

As diverse as they are, our students have much in common — their passion to learn and their interest in exploring their new homes.  There is more I could say about them, but soon enough, our students will begin navigating their own journeys through NYU’s global network.  They will soon begin telling their own stories, and I am looking forward to learning more about them.

Core Program Orientation in New York City

Speaking at Core Program Convocation in New York City.

Emily Bauman taught first-year Liberal Studies students at NYU Florence last year. She asked students in her writing class to reflect on a common experience they all shared in Florence: taking the local #25 bus.

Photo: Florence rooftopsNYU Florence is positioned, spectacularly, at the edge of the city in a former villa filled with views of Florentine landmarks through crumbling statues and cypress trees, olive groves and, inthe spring, wisteria blossoms. But if you want to walk downtown you take a long steep trip down suck-in-your-stomach narrow cobblestone sidewalks, past a gas station, pizza parlor, and horticultural gardens, and into the winding streets of town.

As an alternative most of us prefer to rely on the 25 bus, which runs from the bus hub of Piazza San Marco all the way into the hills of historic Pratolino. To ride the bus is, like its route destinations, to journey between past and present.  The journey greets you with the canned female voice of a modern recorded sound system, but the voice announces many of the route’s stops by the businesses that mark the spot.  A pharmacy, a caffè – establishments that in New York no one would ever count on staying established – appear as fixtures of the urban landscape. The effect is familiar and inviting, a city that goes beyond Google Maps to greet you personally, informally.

My friend and I were walking to the San Marco bus stop late one evening. The air was still warm with the quick beginnings of Florentine spring, so we decided to stop for gelato at the corner. My small paper cup was filled with the rich flavors of caffè and cioccolato. I had exactly two bites of the creamy concoction before I walked out of the gelateria to find the venticinque pulling away. In a panic, my friend and I rushed after it, trying to catch it at the next stop about 40 yards down the street. My heart broke as the cool cup slipped out of my hand, landing face-down on the sidewalk. When I arrived at the bus, my relief was soon replaced with regret and annoyance at finding it parked on break. My personal-record-breaking sprints and sacrificial gelato had been for nothing. I had a good 30 minutes to mourn the loss of my gelato before the bus finally started back up and began moving home, toward Villa Natalia. (Eileen King)

Be careful though of not being ready with your ticket, purchasable at a local tabacchi store, in case of random visits by the bus police. You will be fined fifty euros if caught without.

The first time I took the bus was my first night here. There was a giant gaggle of us being obnoxious and not knowing what we were doing. We brought along with us our free bus tickets given to us at orientation. We didn’t even know how to use them. We just got off at our stop and scurried off, giggling that we were able to score a free bus ride. I remember the first time someone got fined. Others followed. I narrowly missed having to pay something like 200 Euros. Personally I don’t really like the bus, with its high unpredictability and risk of being stopped by the oh-so-powerful ticket inspector. I’ve taken to walking. It really isn’t that far.  (Phoebe Schoeck)

To be one of the crowd on the bus is to experience the city’s diversity: workers from Asia and Latin America commuting in from out of town, local Italians who yell at the bus driver if there is no more room, and, of course, American study abroad students with their bright energy and conversation.

The doors open and you step inside. The bus driver shoots you a quick glance but goes back to wearily checking the dashboard clock. “Vorrei un biglietto per favore,” you tell him through the small hole between you and his little cubicle. He hands you a ticket through the slot and you give him 1.20 euro. You carry the pink ticket embellished with silver fleur de lis to a small machine that quickly stamps on the time you validated your ticket. You walk deeper into the moving bus, stumbling and almost falling as the sporadic stops take you by surprise. Suddenly you notice a familiar, mouth-watering scent wafting between the seats and handlebars. You turn around and see a group of American college students, chatting away and munching on french fries stacked in a cone with a variety of unidentifiable condiments coated on top. The other people on the bus all notice the smell and try to look away, focusing their attention to something else other than their growing hunger. You realize you are not alone.  (Sophia Chan)

Some may see a bus as a just a rickety configuration of metal and screws, but what I see is a representation of the city it travels through. If you think of Florence as a body and the streets as its veins, the people are the blood cells, the eyes, the brain, and most importantly the heart. I, the student, play three different yet significant roles within this ancient being. The scientist: here to learn and analyze; the antibiotic: a foreign substance here to bring positive change; or lastly the disease: looked down upon by the brain and conscience of the body, which only seeks to rid itself of the malady while simultaneously wondering where on earth it came from.  (Logan Kelly)

Florence has its many perspectives and divisions, but it is a generous place.  Though it is no longer one of the biggest cities in Europe, as it was once hundreds of years ago, it still has the capacity to be a great teacher, to expand one’s sense of self and experience.

People waiting in San Marco recognize each other immediately by “I have seen you on campus.”  The conversation starts naturally with one smiling at the other. I remember a girl telling me that she was going to visit Uffizi Museum because the tickets are free the first Sunday of every month. And the other time another girl told me that the card with ten counts is cheaper than the ten tickets one buys individually. I might not remember their names or faces but I remember their words, becoming part of my memory in Florence.  (Yidun Ouyang)

When I first traveled to San Marcos on the 25 bus from campus, my experience didn’t feel like an experience. Outside the bus windows I saw a new world – a world with many cafés and restaurants from Middle Eastern to Chinese, monuments, street performers, and people.  Even though I was surrounded by many fellow NYU students I felt isolated, like I was watching a television show like National Geographic: trying see what the world is like without actually being a part of it.  After that bus ride, I decided to walk everywhere and every time.  Except for April 2nd, my birthday. It was my first time that semester going into town late at night, and the bus was one of the last that day. Everyone was from NYU and there were many of us, talking, laughing, excited. A student called out,“Gavin! Making a guest appearance tonight!” Suddenly I discovered a feeling we all created together, a feeling of being bigger than the big world we already live in.  (Gavin Ward)

Congratulations to the winners of the annual Liberal Studies photo contest, A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Worlds! Their photos will be framed and hung in the Liberal Studies lounge for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Best Photo of an Architectural Structure:

“Beijing” (Beijing, China) by Andrea Meyer
During the academic year 2015-2016, Andrea was a Core Program first-year student.

Beijing

Best Photo of Local Life:

“La Vida en La Plaza” (Madrid, Spain) by Susan Lee
During the academic year 2015-2016, Susan was a GLS Senior.

La Vida en La Plaza

Best Photo that Captures the Spirit of NYU’s Global Network University:

“Hide Away” (Darjeeling, India) by Lila Murphy
During the academic year 2015-2016, Lila was a Core Program first-year student.

Hide Away

Best Photo of a Social, Political, or Religious Event:

“The Effects of Gentrification in “Old Town”, Puxi” (Shanghai, China) by Janli Gwo
During the academic year 2015-2016, Janli was a GLS Senior.

The Effects of Gentrification in "Old Town", Puxi

The Grand Prize Winner, for Best in Globe Photo:

“GMT + 8:30” (Pyongyang, North Korea) by Tianxiong Hu
During the academic year 2015-2016, Tianxiong was a Core Program sophomore.

GMT_plus_830

Our global curriculum and extensive study away programs take Liberal Studies students from the handsome boulevards of Buenos Aires to the sparkling sands of Tel Aviv, and everywhere in between. You can share your view of the world by entering our fifth annual Global Photo Contest

Every year, the photo entries capture intimate scenes of local life, stunning vistas, and colorful moments from around the world. The 2015 winning photos are displayed below. I look forward to seeing your photos; look for details in your LS newsletter.

By Sristi Pradhan

By Sristi Pradhan

By Daphne Sigala

By Daphne Sigala

By Martha Silva

By Martha Silva

By Chandler West

By Chandler West

 

By Katherine Heldt

By Katherine Heldt

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.