Class of 2014
For James Hunt, family discussions around his childhood dinner table would range from the implications of the Russian invasion of Georgia to the role of medical vaccines in the development of India.
As the son of a career diplomat for the US government and an executive at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, James feels fortunate to have been raised in a cosmopolitan household where intellectual curiosity and real-world solutions were encouraged, where he received "a different perspective on the world."
As a student, he found himself drawn to a variety of enterprises from wood carving and painting to earning his spending money by selling espresso drinks at swim meets.
It was that entrepreneurial sensibility that led James to choose NYU Abu Dhabi, rather than a more traditional campus based in the USA. His family has lived in Poland, South Africa and Canada, as well as his home town of Arlington, Virginia.
"That lifestyle I grew up with translates well into a place like NYU Abu Dhabi," he says. "Seeing history from the position of a son of a diplomat has always been an interesting factor in my life."
A trip with his mother to India last year helped him make the decision to go out into the world and experience things firsthand.
"I came off that trip really happy to be engaging with the world not in a tourist sense," James says.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, he plans to explore the deserts and surrounding landscape of the country. A self-described "outdoorsy" fellow, he has also brought along a road bike to help explore the city.
During high school, James was a BMX bike aficionado. At one point he built a "dirt jumps" course with eight tracks and 65 bike jumps. He was the captain of his high school's hockey team, a sport he picked up when his family was stationed in Canada.
"I like to work with my hands," Hunt says. "I also enjoy painting, wood carving, and gardening."
One of his recent creations, a one-foot-long wooden fish, took 40 hours to carve. "It's such a precise, patient art," he says.
James also draws great inspiration from his grandfather, Jim Hunt, who was a four-term governor of North Carolina and the longest-serving top official in the state's history. The elder Hunt has been described as "an early proponent of teaching standards and early childhood education, gaining national recognition for the Smart Start program for pre-kindergarteners" and a proponent of efforts to promote technology and technology-based economic development. "I may even think about running for office one day," James says.
For now, he wants to remain open and flexible to what comes next in his life. Much like he never expected to be in Abu Dhabi for college, he is excited about where he'll end up.
"What I end up doing will probably surprise me," he says.