NYUAD Students Participate in Global Internships, Part Two

NYUAD students share their summer internship experiences around the globe.

We last left off in Washington, DC, with Benjamin Jance, Class of 2015, and his internship at the US Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools. Elsewhere around the globe, his fellow NYU Abu Dhabi classmates participated in a range of exciting summer opportunities. Keep reading to find out more!

We Begin in Switzerland...

Karolina Durdova, Class of 2016, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to perform alongside an international cast in 2050: The Future We Want, a musical produced to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Green Cross International (GCI). The independent non-profit and non-governmental organization, which was founded by former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, comprises a network of national organizations in 30 countries and focuses on global challenges of security, poverty, and environmental degradation.

"The abovementioned topics also became the key themes to the script of the musical," Durdova said. Indeed, the performance transported the audience between present and future to highlight issues and their possible solutions, a method that hit close to home for many of her fellow cast members. "Meeting and working with these inspiring people was the best part of the project," Durdova said. "We learned a lot about each other's lives and countries — it was touching to see how some of the musical's topics had personally affected their lives."

After an intense round of rehearsals, 2050: The Future We Want was performed in the European headquarters of the United Nations. "I cannot imagine a more exciting end of the summer break," Durdova exclaimed.

Heading East

For Eszter Meszaros, Class of 2016, summer was "a life-changing experience in every sense." In addition to a four-week tour of Southeast Asia and the arrivals of a new niece and nephew, Meszaros spent six weeks in Budapest, Hungary (her home country), studying alongside Central European University researchers Gergely Csibra and György Gergely. The focus: developmental psychology in infants.

Introduced to the work of Csibra and Gergely through Susan Carey, a visiting professor from Harvard who taught at NYUAD in spring 2013, Meszaros had been considering "baby research as a possible direction since the beginning of Carey's class" and was excited by the opportunity to experience the field firsthand.

Welcomed into a friendly community of PhD students, post-doctorates, assistants, and researchers, Meszaros both observed and participated in experiments and coded videos, which, she said, "is an important part of making sense of the experiment results." As an assistant in two experiments — during which she performed a simple sequence of movements in front of babies — Meszaros found enjoyment in taking part in the process rather than solely seeing the work being conducted outside of the lab.

Weekly journal club meetings (during which journal articles were discussed) and talks from other researchers at CEU and beyond also provided a "glimpse into many aspects of psychological research," for which Meszaros is thankful. In all, she said, the internship was "a wonderful experience. I got to know Budapest better and had a great summer that brought me closer to figuring out what I want to do and achieve in the future."

Moving Southeast

The summer was "the best kind of whirlwind" for Tessa Ayson, Class of 2016, who, in addition to beginning her journey in Istanbul, Turkey, interning at the Museum of Innocence, "developed friendships, photographs, and the packing skills of a champion."

Working at the museum — which, Ayson said, "comprises a collection of objects painstakingly arranged in exactly 83 display cabinets, with each cabinet corresponding to a chapter in Orhan Pamuk's eponymous novel" — involved a variety of projects, from updating the institution's Wikipedia and Facebook pages to creating a Google map of the locations mentioned in the novel. Ayson also assisted with the development of plans to create a smartphone app that would guide users to and around these locations. As Ayson explained, "Pamuk wrote the novel around a set of objects that he collected from the antique stores and junkyards in the Cukurcuma neighborhood near the museum. In a sense, the novel acts as a colorful extended catalog for the museum."

In her free time, Ayson enjoyed exploring Istanbul. Despite political instability in the country, which, she said, "was a shock to my sheltered Western existence," Ayson discovered the dichotomy of the city in its neighborhoods. "It was fascinating," she said. "Walking from the Nişantaşı neighborhood, where polished businesswomen tote Gucci hold-alls and strut across the cobblestones in stilettos, to the backstreets of Harbiye where old women in headscarves can be seen lugging enormous bags of fresh groceries, is like traversing countries."

Even Further Southeast

An artist and musician, Cristóbal Martínez, Class of 2015, shared his talents at Musicmatters, a music school in Sri Lanka. As well as giving piano and music theory lessons to children, he coached two student groups, composed a piece for two local musicians, and met some of the country's artists, thereby becoming acquainted with Sri Lanka's music and film scene. "The exposure to this emerging artistic scene and its professional artists was the most valuable experience of my internship," Martínez said. "Musicians in Sri Lanka are looking for their own musical voice, one that combines their rich culture with the already existing musical traditions in the world."

One such example is the Baliphonics, a group that fuses traditional Sri Lankan rhythms with improvisational jazz. "The band inspired me to look for ways to combine the rich cultural traditions of my own country (Mexico) to merge them with other musical languages out there," he explained.

The educational opportunities that [NYUAD] provides for its students could eventually help us nurture more people in our home countries.

Cristóbal Martínez, Class of 2015

The personal journeys of the Baliphonics' lead musicians — Eshantha Joseph Peiris and Sumudi Surawera, who also run Musicmatters — were also a source of inspiration for Martínez. Each having studied abroad for university, after graduation they chose to return to their home country. When asked why, Peiris explained that he thought he could contribute more in a place like Sri Lanka. Reflecting on his NYUAD education, Martínez said, "The educational opportunities that the University provides for its students could eventually help us nurture more people in our home countries."

Along with teaching, which he found to be one of the most rewarding aspects of his time in Sri Lanka, Martínez directed two music groups formed by Musicmatters students. Helping the band members to create original tunes that spoke to local issues and were written in Sinhalese, he was able to engage the children in a conversation with the culture that surrounds them through music. "I wanted the students to know that they can contribute to the creation of culture," Martínez said.

This conversation with culture is of interest to Martínez. As he said, "Sri Lanka helped me consider the way music allows us to engage in this conversation and made me look at musicians as actors in culture as well. I feel inspired to continue to find my voice and sound, considering I belong to a globalized age where the lines between here and there are not clear and where the world is trying to make sense of the multicultural exposure it experiences."

Martínez celebrated the end of his internship with the Musicmatters Festival 2013, during which the groups he coached performed their original songs and he performed one of his own compositions with Peiris, before heading off to the Siena Summer Music Festival in Italy. There, he premiered three new pieces based on poems by Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Francisco Luis Bernárdez.

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