Being a junior at NYU Abu Dhabi means being part of an exciting adventure filled with ups and downs, astonishing successes, unexpected obstacles, uncertainties, aspirations, opportunities, ambitions, and hopes. After spending my sophomore year abroad at NYU Buenos Aires and NYU Paris, I expected to be more settled with my future goals. Instead, I found myself wondering about the diversity of my experiences and gained knowledge that had generated many great ideas and passions, but also about how these ideas and passions lacked structure. I had a set of colorful threads in my hands, but couldn't figure out the pattern they should follow.
The puzzle started to come together during my January Term Nation-Building class, which took place at NYU New York. In addition to giving a clear insight into nation-building and peacekeeping processes and the collaboration of its international actors, the course also provided an understanding of the main functions of international organizations such as the United Nations and aspects of US foreign policy.
Throughout the course we focused on two cases: Afghanistan and Haiti. Using knowledge from expert perspectives, we then produced and presented policies that might facilitate the way to prosperity and economic development for each country. We came up with reasonable and creative proposals ranging from the empowerment of the local Afghan population through the development of the public sector to a structured educational curriculum in Haiti. Most importantly, we were so immersed in the topic that researching and debating went far beyond our classroom.
The course included a week-long trip to NYU Washington, DC, which gave us the opportunity not only to deepen the content of the class, but also to experience the dynamics and cultures of two great US cities. And our professors took advantage of the locations and diversified our agenda well. In addition to hearing guest speakers from the United Nations, the Pentagon, the National Democratic Institute, and other organizations relevant to topics discussed in class, we visited and got a taste of the real working environment at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Eisenhower Executive office, the Brookings Institute, the Center for Global Development, and the USAID Department in Washington, DC. The class also allowed us the exceptional opportunity to speak to such high-class officials as Samantha Power, senior director of Multilateral Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council, current United Nations Chef de Cabinet to the Executive Office Susana Malcorra, and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
For me, the success of this learning process came from the structure of the course. It allowed us to see in the afternoon the practice of the theoretical material that we studied in the morning.
Our outstanding professors imparted as much knowledge as we could possibly absorb in the short three-week time period by keeping us engaged and amused in each and every moment of our time together. My J-Term classmate Andres Rodriguez, Cass of 2016, defined his experience in a way that most of the students sharing our class can certainly relate to: "Never did I think that 'full immersion in the subject' would mean working 24/7...never did I think I would enjoy it so much." For me, the success of this learning process came from the structure of the course. It allowed us to see in the afternoon the practice of the theoretical material that we studied in the morning. Since the majority of my classmates were social science majors, our outings — which included talks with UN representatives whose eyes lit up with passion when they spoke about their experiences in the field — definitely inspired us and made us excited for the future.
In addition to Nation-Building, NYU New York hosted five other J-Term courses. Topics varied from museums and courts of law to coding and understanding the financial crisis. Cassie Flores, Class of 2014, who took Museum, Community, and Public Art, shared her feelings about the class: "My J-Term course opened me up to a whole new side of my field of study. I'd always been passionate about the ways in which art can help communities, and this January I got to meet people who are engaging with that relationship in amazing ways."
Like Flores, I had an absolutely eye-opening J-Term experience, one that let me dive into nation-building and peacekeeping operations, a field of international relations about which I have always been passionate. I now feel inspired to pursue the path I began in the classroom by thinking of the importance of international collaboration in the process of maintaining peace and developing and reshaping governmental structures. Of course, my puzzle is still a work in progress, but my January course established a strong path. Now it's a matter of choosing which direction to take.