When Sophia Moore-Smith enrolled at NYU, she was excited to study and live in the vibrant metropolis that is New York City. But she also had her sights set even wider—on NYU’s global study away opportunities. “I saw how important study abroad was within NYU and how it seemed integrated into the student experience,” says Sophia, a senior Journalism and Romance Languages double major. After earning two study abroad scholarships, Sophia spent extended time in Brazil and Italy. Now she is working to help other students realize their own study away dreams.
A Rewarding Journey
Sophia grew up in Rutland, Vermont. But she had her first taste of cultural immersion as an exchange student in Brazil before she came to NYU. When she did arrive at NYU, she wasted no time continuing to expand her cultural horizons. She spent her first year at NYU Florence as part of the NYU Liberal Studies’ First Year Away program. “It was definitely a different first-year experience. Not only were we all first-year university students meeting new people, but we were also in a completely new country and learning a new language,” Sophia says. She loved Florence, especially with the opportunities to travel and experience more of Europe.
When she returned from Italy, Sophia spent a summer studying in Brazil with the help of funding from the Gilman Scholarship. This US Department of State program aims to make study abroad more attainable for low-income students. Sophia lived on the northeast coast of Brazil where she learned from a local professor and guest lecturers. Through cultural excursions, she learned about Brazilian history, art, and music.
After that trip, Sophia applied for the Boren Award, which is offered through the US Department of Defense. She utilized the support of NYU’s Office of Global Awards as a resource to help her craft her essays. When she won the scholarship, she used the funds to return to Brazil for two semesters—this time in Rio de Janeiro.
The Boren Award is for students studying critical languages, such as Portuguese, Arabic, and Mandarin. In fact, Portuguese is one of the languages an NYU student can study when they major in Romance Languages. “When I first started studying Portuguese, I didn’t know it was a critical language. Learning that opened so many doors for me,” Sophia says. Her proficiency in Portuguese helped her land an internship at the US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. As an intern there, she creates language curricula for US diplomats. The work gives her insight into her dream career as a diplomat or foreign service officer.
Promoting Opportunities for Others
As a Gilman Scholarship recipient, Sophia was required to complete a service project after her studies. To share the positive effects of studying away, she implemented programming at NYU to encourage other low-income and first-generation students to study away themselves. In addition to raising awareness about financial assistance opportunities, she provides personal support for anyone applying.
Sophia believes that the students she meets with have the most to gain from studying away. “You learn so many transferable skills, like adaptability and conflict management. By cultivating those skills, low-income and first-generation students can set themselves up for success after college,” she shares.
To those worried about a possible language barrier at a certain study away site, Sophia says, “Just go for it.” Students learn the local language while they’re there—both through courses and through their daily interactions with locals—and the benefits are worth leaving their comfort zone. “You can take overseas vacations in your adult life, but nothing compares to going to a place specifically to learn, internalize, and immerse yourself in a language and culture,” Sophia says. “And doing it with a cohort of people who are in a similar place academically and personally—that’s truly special.”