From struggling to get an NYU ID to figuring out how to sign in to NYU Wi-Fi, there are random little aspects of being a visiting student in this program that come up every now and then that differ from the experiences of NYU students. During the first week, I was constantly met with, “I didn’t know non-NYU students could do this program!” and was almost always asked why I decided to go abroad in a program that was not affiliated with Duke University, my home university.
I made the choice to enroll in a different university’s program because I wanted something completely new. Duke didn’t offer me access to a fully-functioning branch of the university, or internship opportunities, so I sought out an approved program instead. NYU’s stuck out for the reasons mentioned previously and many more, but above all, Prague just drew me in.
I remember being anxious before boarding the flight to Prague about what I was about to walk into. I had assumed that, as an NYU campus abroad, the students would all be familiar with or close to one another and my status as a visitor would be blatantly obvious. I signed up for that aspect of this experience because I wanted to get to know more people, but it was quite a large step out of what I was accustomed to. The reality was, as I quickly learned in my group shuttle from the airport to my dorm, that while a few people came with friends, most only knew a few of the people participating in the program. My coming in without knowing a single person in the program was not as unusual as I had thought, and everyone was eager to get to know one another.
One aspect of the program that I found NYU students were better prepared for than I was involved navigating and attending university in a city. They have all been accustomed to going to school in a city and using public transportation, while my experiences have all involved suburbs that require cars or ubers to get around. Thankfully, Prague has great and reliable public transportation that even the most directionally challenged among us can find our way around. And if all else fails, Google Maps is always the way to go.
Truthfully, the only part of being a visiting student that is different are some of the conversations. My university experience has been on a traditional campus, actually delineated by walls, in a small city in the South, so any talk about living in New York, about the academic buildings, or about the culture of Stern were beyond me. The great part about this though, is that I’ve learned so much about New York, let people know more about Duke, and found tour guides for whenever I go to visit the city.
There are obvious differences in the experiences and motivations between visiting students and those who attend NYU, but not enough to influence friendships or experiences that are had once you actually arrive in Prague. The different backgrounds that are brought into this program make it all that much more enriching and fun to be around. You’re bound to meet people from all over the place and likely find some couches to crash on around New York or the U.S. in general by the end of your semester here. I am really happy with my decision to come to an outside program to experience Prague and Europe in general - I wouldn’t trade my choice, the experiences I’ve had, or the people I’ve met for the world.