Isabel Schmieta sitting on steps outside and smiling


For Isabel Schmieta, the study of politics and refugee migration isn’t just about learning the issues from a textbook or a distance, it’s about experiencing them up close and personal. That’s because Isabel is majoring in Global Liberal Studies, an interdisciplinary degree in which students participate in the Liberal Studies First Year Away Program at one of four NYU global sites before eventually declaring a concentration and completing an additional year abroad.

An overhead view of the NYU Florence campus
Unique Opportunities From the Very Beginning

Isabel’s decision to enroll in Liberal Studies as a first year away student was easy, in part because she was able to begin her journey at NYU Florence. During her time there, she took on a broad curriculum but fell in love with courses like Media Activism and Democracy, which pushed her toward choosing to stay in the Global Liberal Studies major and developing a concentration in politics, rights, and development, with a focus on refugee migration.

“I worked with refugees in an internship in high school, so it was already a strong interest,” she says. “In Florence I had unique opportunities that shaped my view on refugee issues,” she says. “I was able to travel to Brussels and visit EU institutions twice through the EU in Focus series that NYU Florence hosts, allowing me to learn about how European politics work and also further explore topics such as Brexit and the refugee crisis.”

Isabel loved her time in Florence so much she extended her stay to a third semester and became a global peer mentor for the site, a role that allows her to share her experience with NYU students considering studying abroad.

Sharpening Focus in an Ideal Location

During her junior year—which Global Liberal Studies students spend entirely abroad—Isabel enrolled at NYU Berlin. There, she continued her study of migration patterns through courses like Transnational Migration, Identity, and Citizenship. It was also an ideal location to explore her concentration. “Berlin, specifically, is one of the biggest hosts to refugees coming to Europe,” she says. “I was able to have an internship that directly deals with this topic in one of the world’s hubs for refugees.” Though her time in Berlin was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, she continues to serve as a global peer mentor for the center, a role that allows her to help recruit and encourage students to enroll in the site.

Firsthand Experience—From Anywhere in the World

As a senior, Isabel studied from home in Georgia, and she stresses the value of studying a subject firsthand, wherever you are. “I keep jokingly saying that I’ve now studied at four NYU campuses: NYU Florence, NYU New York, NYU Berlin, and now NYU Atlanta.”

Lesley Gibson is the managing editor for NYU’s Marketing Communications group in the University Relations and Public Affairs office. She is currently obsessed with black raspberries, sun hats, and lip gloss. She loves dogs of all sizes, but especially small wire-coated terriers.