From NYU Shanghai to NYU Florence—And Beyond

Nathan Healy

Aicha Hanne is living her childhood dream while carving a path toward the future

Portrait of Aicha Hanne

“When I was applying to colleges, I wanted to go somewhere I could meet people from different backgrounds and experience college life in a different setting,” says Aicha Hanne. At NYU Shanghai, she found a school that’s international on every level, with students from over 70 countries who speak more than 30 languages. And because NYU is a university without walls, Aicha’s educational opportunities reached far beyond Shanghai.

A Dream That Fits Perfectly

Aicha grew up wanting to study in China. If you were to ask the senior Economics major why, she likely couldn’t provide a definite answer. “I don’t know how the idea came about,” she laughs. “Random choice. But I remember always researching different universities in China and their offerings.”

When the time came to start applying, China seemed like more of a childhood dream than a real possibility. It’s far from her home in Dakar, Senegal. And the language and culture are so different. However, she still wanted to go somewhere away from home, and during the course of her research, discovered NYU Shanghai. “It was small, diverse, and open. And it was in the place that I long dreamed of living, so it felt like the perfect fit,” Aicha says.

Students sitting around NYU Shanghai sign

An Important Next Step

What felt like a perfect fit has become Aicha’s reality. NYU Shanghai’s diverse and tight knit community has given her the international experience she yearned for. “Here, you get to know and connect with everyone,” she shares. “I’ve had roommates who are Chinese and I’ve made friends from all over the world—Nepal, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and so many other places.”

Aicha’s learned more than she could’ve imagined about her peers’ cultures and traditions. It lit a spark in her to learn even more—outside of China. “After living in China for more than two years, it became my second home. So studying abroad felt like an important next step in gaining more knowledge of the world and becoming more adaptable to different cultures,” she explains. That led to a semester abroad at NYU Florence.

Skyline of the city of Florence

The Future Comes Into Focus

Academics drew Aicha to NYU Florence, where she took classes that directly relate to her major, such as Money and Banking, History of European Integration, and International Economics. But she was also enchanted by the allure and uniqueness of the Italian city. “I heard so many good things about the beauty of the campus that I was amazed before I even got there,” Aicha says.

From her dorm in the city center, she had easy access to the entirety of the Florentine experience. “Just going to get groceries was like visiting the city for the first time,” she shares. “I’d constantly encounter so much interesting art everywhere I went.” She also fell in love with the NYU Florence campus. “The gardens, the olive trees, the sunsets, the museum within the school, the villas, everything is just breathtaking,” she says. But ultimately, it was the personal and academic growth she experienced that had the biggest impact on her.

In addition to learning a new language and meeting new friends who she still holds close, her semester at NYU Florence helped her better define her goals. “My favorite class I’ve taken in college is one I took in Florence: Money and Banking,” Aicha says. “It helped me develop more clear thoughts on what I want to do in the future.” Imagine that: what started as a childhood dream has taken Aicha around the world—and has helped her find clarity about what comes next.