Without a doubt, the transition to college life is an exceptional time. Suddenly, you’re living in a new city, meeting new people, and adjusting to a completely different day-to-day rhythm. While thrilling and freeing, it’s also challenging and overwhelming.
Luckily that’s where the First Year Dialogue (FYD) program at NYU Shanghai comes in! The seven-week orientation program brings together small groups of first-year students to facilitate a smooth transition to college life. “FYD helped me prepare for school in terms of academics, campus life, and my relationships with others,” says Xianchen Fang, a first-year student at NYU Shanghai. “I learned about all the resources available to me and made friends. Plus, the food was great!”
FYD is all about providing a safe space for students to discuss common challenges they encounter as newly arrived college students. “Preparing for college life isn’t easy, so FYD is very important,” shares Anza Batgerel, a first-year student from Mongolia. “Becoming a college student is a lot of responsibility, and I was really nervous. What’s more, going to another city—another country—is huge. But while coming to NYU Shanghai was hard at first, FYD helped me a lot, and I’ve found many friends.”
Throughout the orientation program, first-year students explore different themes, from self-identity to culture shock, through conversations and interactive activities. Each session lasts for just over an hour and is led by an orientation ambassador (OA). It’s important to note that OAs are older students who have previously completed the orientation program. Since they have been through similar challenges, the students are ideal guides for those just beginning their college journey.
“As an OA, I want to ease students’ anxiety,” says Mu Zhong, a Business and Finance major and former OA. “My own orientation week was one of the best weeks of my life. However, when I first came here, I was really anxious. Through FYD, students learn that everyone is different. You should try to be yourself, find your own pace, make your own decisions, and live your own life.”
Students Helping Students
OAs play a central role in the FYD program, drawing on their own experiences to create a supportive environment. Before orientation week, they participate in a week-long in-person training. The training covers facilitation skills, communication, and mock FYD sessions in which OAs independently run through dialogues. And while being an OA is about helping first-year students, OAs also learn more about themselves and their community.
“At the end of the training sessions, I was surprised to realize that the conversations were helping me find out more about myself. Listening to my fellow OAs share their stories and looking at the world through their eyes made me realize that we really have a diverse group of people here at NYU Shanghai!” exclaims Shahama Samsudeen. She’s a former OA who is majoring in Economics with minors in Math and Chinese. Adds Mu, “Even today, the students in my FYD group will send me private messages if they need help choosing courses or have questions. And whenever we see each other on campus, we stop and catch up. It’s a really good connection between us.”