Growing up in New Zealand, Victoria Zhu never really thought about leaving the country to pursue a degree elsewhere. Like many of her peers, Zhu was planning to go to a university in Auckland, and find a job in the city after graduation.
That was until a close childhood friend left for NYU Abu Dhabi. It made Zhu realize what she did not have back home. “I didn’t grow up with an international community... I pretty much lived in New Zealand and Auckland all my life,” Zhu said. Her friend’s positive experience at NYUAD sparked her sense of adventure and desire to enhance her university experience by being around people from different countries and cultures.
Zhu is a third culture person who was brought up in New Zealand by Chinese parents. “I was raised in an environment that’s different to their upbringing,” Zhu explained. Zhu had to balance her identity as a New Zealander being brought up by Chinese immigrants.
When Zhu left New Zealand for Abu Dhabi, she was not prepared for the open dialogue and level of acceptance within the NYUAD community. “I came here and realized that all aspects of my identity are valued, not just the parts of me that are from New Zealand, but also the parts of me that are ethnically and fundamentally Chinese,” Zhu said.
Hearing her classmates talk about their plans to work or intern at great organizations like the United Nations, or work in countries Zhu had not heard of before really shifted her trajectory. “It made me realize that I could also have these opportunities that I thought were unattainable goals before,” Zhu said. “NYUAD has made me more ambitious,” she added.
A passion grew when Zhu landed an internship in Zambia working with children with learning disabilities. There, she began to understand more about educational attainment in public schools. “I became really interested in the kind of the nexus between child development psychology and education, and how those two things interact or necessarily inform one another to shape social attitudes,” the psychology major said. In particular, she was very interested in the psychosocial development of children during the critical age of two to 12, and how it shapes the way they negotiate the world.
Zhu’s experience at NYUAD has opened up different pathways to life after graduation. While she is still deciding between going to graduate school or taking up a job in the UAE, one thing is for sure — she is no longer the same Zhu who thought she would make a life staying in New Zealand.