NYU Abu Dhabi student bridge gap with Washington, D.C. campus

A group of 21 NYU Abu Dhabi students currently staying in New York took a weekend trip to experience Washington, D.C. Similar to university-planned regional trips in NYU’s study abroad sites, this excursion aimed to provide an opportunity for the visiting students to gain a new perspective on the United States.

The first of two visits to Washington, D.C. this semester, this trip was focused on the city’s political culture. Students toured the Capitol, visited the Newseum and had the chance to talk to NYU Wagner graduate Mary Fischietto, who currently works as the program examiner at the Office of Management and Budget of the White House.

“She gave us a lot of insight into how the government’s budget works,” said Lucas Hansen, a junior at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Hansen, who is originally from Kentucky, has been to the District of Columbia before. However, he said he appreciated experiencing it again with a more mature outlook.

“I feel much more aware of the American political system,” he said.

For non-American students, visiting Washington, D.C. was a chance to connect with United States history.

Neelgoon Safdar, a junior from Pakistan, said she loved being in the nation’s capital.

“American ideals are embedded into the city’s monuments,” she said. “I was really moved by the Lincoln Memorial. I could have sat on its steps for hours, imagining Martin Luther King, Jr., and the U.S. civil rights movement.”

But the trip was not just about monuments and politics.

Bouthayna Baltaji, an Arab-American junior born and raised in Abu Dhabi, loved visiting the city’s museums.

“My favorite was the Hirshhorn Museum,” Baltaji said. “[The] Ai Weiwei exhibit on freedom of communication was captivating.”

Hasanthi Piyasena, coordinator for global education for NYU Abu Dhabi in New York, said she planned this regional excursion to add depth to the students’ experiences in the United States.

“These trips give a different cultural perspective and add to the academic program of studying away in the United States,” Piyasena said.

The group stayed at NYU’s site that opened this semester in Washington, D.C. and were able to meet students and learn about the academic programs that are offered at the new campus.

“The facilities … are fantastic,” said Alice Tessen, a NYU Abu Dhabi sophomore from Wisconsin. “It would be good for people interested in government.”

Kerry Barrett, director of academic programs for NYU Abu Dhabi in New York, said this trip was an opportunity to cultivate the relationship between the Greenwich Village and Washington, D.C. students and sites.

Barrett stated that as the new site becomes established, different classes and student groups from NYU will come into Washington, D.C. for weekend trips.

“Nothing adds on to written material [and] discussed material like experiential learning,” Barrett said. “[Washington D.C.] is great for NYU students studying in any field.”

Barrett said a different group of NYU Abu Dhabi students will travel to Washington, D.C. later this semester to experience more of the capital’s art scene. Next semester, the program in New York hopes to host regional trips in other cities around the Northeast, such as Boston or Philadelphia.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 19 print edition. Alistair Blacklock is a contributing writer. Email him at university@nyunews.com.

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