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Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / A journey around the world with NYUAD

Courtesy of Atoka Jo
Atoka Jo practices Kathakali dance at a temple in Kollam, India.

By Atoka Jo (New York University Abu Dhabi) / Special to The Japan NewsThis column features reports by Japanese students studying overseas about their life on and off campus.

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Last week for my class on anthropology in the Middle East, I read a book by anthropologist and Princeton University Prof. Abdellah Hammoudi about his experience on the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Until then, I had not realized that at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), I, too, was on a journey every day — similar to the hajj.

The dining hall — or the place I call my favorite classroom — is where cross-cultural conversations naturally occur. I chose to attend NYUAD because of the diversity of students: 113 nationalities and 104 languages, all selected at a 4 percent acceptance rate. Another factor that persuaded me to choose NYUAD was the full scholarship of $80,000 per year that I received from the Abu Dhabi government, including tuition, housing, books, stipend and even airline tickets to and from Japan twice a year.

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The first NYU Global site was set up in Madrid in 1958. Since the university’s mission is to develop global citizens, the students can study away at all 13 NYU Global sites for a maximum of two semesters, and the professors often organize class trips abroad. For classes, I studied Renaissance art in Italy; I traveled to Uganda, where I visited an African theater festival; in Bahrain, I observed coastal development; and in India, I had intense training on Indian martial arts and dances.

It is true that I sometimes suffocate from being trapped on Saadiyat Island where our campus is located, but the university provides a variety of events. Even though I am a Social Research and Public Policy, and Theater double major, when Lang Lang, a world-famous Chinese pianist, came to Abu Dhabi, I was fortunate to be chosen to represent NYUAD in his master class. The small student body and luck enabled me to be part of this fabulous opportunity.

Sophomore year is approaching, and I am looking forward to studying away in Buenos Aires to improve my Spanish skills. In my junior year, I will conduct research on child development in Accra, Ghana, and finally complete my thesis as a senior. At the end of this seemingly life-changing journey, I am curious about what a surprisingly different person I will have become.

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New York University Abu Dhabi

Opened in 2010 through an agreement betwen New York University and Abu Dhabi, it is the first comprehensive liberal arts and science campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major U.S. university.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship

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