“I’m going to NYU Shanghai for college!” I still remember how I felt when I received the news from my friend Angela. We were both Chinese students. I was a rising sophomore in a Chinese university, and she was about to be one of NYU Shanghai’s first class of students. On one hand I was truly happy for her; on the other hand, I wished I was born one year later so I could have gone as well.

And now here I am, helping students explore NYU Shanghai, the school I didn’t have the chance to apply to, as a college option. For Chinese students, joining NYU Shanghai is a bold move. We’re young and we’re not like any traditional Chinese university. As Chancellor Yu Lizhong said, by doing so, they’re “making history together.”

Then Why NYU Shanghai?

Tianyi Zheng (’18) used an amazing metaphor to explain his motive.

“I don’t want to be an up-to-standard product on the assembly line anymore.”

As someone who spent 15 years in traditional Chinese classrooms, I can totally relate to Tianyi. Before college, we study the same national curriculum, same textbooks, and barely have any open-ended questions on our quizzes. It’s just like an assembly line. What comes out are well-trained, highly skilled intellectual products that only know “the correct answer” instead of our own answers.

NYU Shanghai changes that. Here, Chinese students learn by unlearning. They unlearn the fallacy that there’s only one correct answer to everything. They unlearn the worry of not getting the correct answers. And then, they learn to accept different realities based on diversity, to celebrate their own perspective and creativity.

And this is yet one of the many things of their unique college experience here at NYU Shanghai.


What Else About NYU Shanghai Makes It So Unique Compared to Chinese Universities?

To be honest, I can go on and on about this all day. But here are my top three reasons to Baidu, “how to transfer to NYU Shanghai” (which didn’t really happen when I was in college).

A Chance to Explore Majors

At NYU Shanghai, students don’t have to declare their major until the end of their sophomore year. This is a luxury for students attending Chinese universities. The fact is, we decide our major even before getting accepted to any university. Moreover, it’s not easy to switch majors (at my university it’s not even allowed). As a result, many students had to stick with what they later found unfit. I personally don’t regret my choice, but I definitely would add another minor in Interactive Media Arts if I went here!

A Chance to Build Friendships in a Diverse Community

Strangely enough, I found it easier to make friends in culturally heterogeneous groups. This is probably why NYU Shanghai would work for me. Although the student body is comparatively smaller, the possibility to make new friends can be much greater. Because the student body is so diverse, individuals cherish similarities just as they respect each other’s differences. You never know which one of your social identities coincides with someone else’s. On top of that, the student life office organizes amazing programs and events for students to find “their people.”

A Chance to Study Abroad Without Hassle

Thanks to my study abroad program, I got to live in New York City for six months. But it was not all rainbows and butterflies. The hurdles I had to jump to study in New York are as memorable as the great experience of itself. First, I went through an internal application and screening process. There was serious competition for only two spots. After I somehow got the opportunity, I found out the study abroad semester started in the final week of my home university. Miraculously, my professors allowed me to take the finals early. I don’t remember how much coffee I drank, but I made it. And with no break at all, I flew straight to the chilly New York City.

And if I were a student at NYU Shanghai, I wouldn’t have experienced any of these challenges! NYU’s global network allows students to seamlessly study abroad at one of 11 global academic centers. Learn more about study abroad.


Yan Liang is an assistant director at NYU Shanghai Undergraduate Admissions based in Shanghai, mainly working with Chinese applicants. She is passionate about sharing tales about the cities of Shanghai and New York, and supporting adventurous souls in their quest to take on global experiences here at NYU. After a few years in Seattle, she is back on the east coast of China but remains a Seahawk fan.