A view of Shanghai

I recently began my second semester as a freshman at New York University Shanghai (上海纽约大学). Under current New York University (NYU) president John Sexton, the school is creating the Global Network University (GNU), a network of “global academic centers” located around the world.  There are currently fourteen, each with different academic and cultural focuses, in cities ranging from London and Prague to Tel Aviv and Accra.  NYU students are required to study abroad at one of these sites for at least a semester during their four years of college.

As of writing, the most prominent universities in the system are the trifecta of degree-granting campuses in New York (of course), Abu Dhabi, and most recently, Shanghai.  NYU Abu Dhabi opened its doors in 2010 and is about to graduate its first class this May.  NYU Shanghai (NYUSH) accepted its first class—of which I found myself to be one of the lucky few—for the fall of 2013.

Part of what drew me to this school was the idea expressed in the school’s motto: “make the world your major.”  My original goal in applying to college was to seek some kind of East Asian Studies or International Relations degree. As it turned out, NYUSH does not yet offer either of those majors.  However, I decided to attend for a number of reasons:

  • I had a chance to be part of the first Sino-American institution of higher learning in history. When I graduate I will have one degree from the States and one from China.
  • The diverse and international group of students attending NYUSH makes globalization come alive. The current student body of three hundred people is 51% Chinese, the other 49% hails from thirty-five other countries. I remember leaving a late night discussion with some classmates, arguing about politics and religion, and realizing that I had been sitting with a Pakistani, an Anglo-Spaniard, a Nepali, and an Egyptian, as though it were nothing.
  • Shanghai is one of China’s most international cities; there is probably no better place in the country for this kind of schooling.

Most important to me, however, was the chance to come to China for such a length of time; I will be a resident of China, with unlimited exits and entrances until a month or so after my graduation in 2017.

This affords me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had at any other university, linguistically, educationally and in terms of travel.  I studied Chinese in high school, but my accent and language ability has improved exponentially by living in China.  As a Global China Studies major, I have the chance to take an incredibly China-centric set of courses, exactly in line with my interests.  And of course, China is my home now: so long as my schedule allows it, I can hop on a train or a plane and go anywhere I want!

The school is currently going through the admission process for the Class of 2018. It’s a strange feeling in some ways, knowing that 300 will become 600 next year, and will grow even more after that.  But I welcome it with open arms; I am excited to watch the school grow culturally, and I look forward to seeing how my own sense of internationality and international relations grows with it.

By Kiril Bolotnikov, The College Preparatory School ’13, New York University Shanghai ‘17

MTS easterly

Dr. Easterly with the Student Ambassadors

Before Dr. William Easterly’s public program at the World Affairs Council on March 27, he sat down with our Student Ambassadors to discuss economics, book writing and career navigation. During this time, students asked questions ranging from “How is China maintaining its growth?” to “Do you enjoy writing books?” and “What is your best advice to teenagers?” Not one to shy away from a lively group of inquisitive students, Dr. Easterly provided to some illuminating answers to our questions.

How is China maintaining its growth?

Easterly asserted that “we are thinking of China in the wrong way” and that the question we should be asking is “why was the base so low in the first place?” He noted that although China as a whole is acquiring wealth, people eat at the level of their income, not the growth of their income. Easterly is unsure if the high level of growth can continue and thinks the odds are that it won’t be able to.

Do you enjoy writing books?

Yes and no. Easterly explained that it’s really hard work writing a book and that he goes back and forth between liking it and not. He also commented that “a book writes you as you write it” because you are continuously refining your previous work and integrating new data meaning that the premise and themes of the book can shift.

What is your best advice to teenagers?

Did you have a high school graduation speaker who told you to discover what your passion is and then sacrifice everything to achieve it? If you did, Easterly says to take it with a grain of salt. “Everyone has a plan B or C and that’s okay,” Easterly commented. In fact, you may be better suited in those careers than your original choice!

If you missed Dr. Easterly’s presentation on Freedom as a Solution to Poverty, you can catch it online at worldaffairs.org.

By Netta Ascoli, Education Program Officer, World Affairs Council

Even in an area as internationally connected as the Bay Area, we sometimes don’t really understand cultural beliefs in other countries. As part of the Student Ambassador program, we have the opportunity to increase our cultural knowledge through person to person connections.


Students in Jakarta and San Francisco waving to each other

A few weeks ago, the Student Ambassadors had the opportunity to videoconference with an Islamic high school in Jakarta, Indonesia. World Affairs Council and Indonesian students took turns asking and answering questions about our faiths and communities.

The video conference was moderated by the organization Face to Faith, created by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The goal of the organization is to forge cultural connections and bring an end to conflicts based on people misunderstanding each other’s religions.

We discussed our schools, communities, personal religious beliefs and the role faith plays in our lives. The Islamic high school’s religious environment seemed completely different from that in the Bay Area. I am not religious, and many of the Student Ambassadors told our Indonesian friends that faith is not a matter often discussed in their schools and communities. However, many of the Indonesian students seemed extremely committed to their faith, and described it as the most important thing in their life. They also expressed a level of tolerance and generosity towards people with other religions. One student said she wished everyone could have faith as the same strong guiding factor it was in her life.

The Indonesian students told us about some of their religious holidays and ways they celebrate their faith, while some World Affairs Council students spoke about the role their faith plays in their desire to help their communities.

The hour long conference seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, and soon we were waving goodbye to our new Indonesian friends. This conference forged a connection between us and people half a world away, and I understand and appreciate more fully the ways that faith and life are intertwined for people in another culture.

By Mira Chaplin, Student Ambassador, Berkeley High School

 Name: Laurel Kellner

 Current Occupation: Coastal Program Analyst II at California Coastal Commission and Public Relations Coordinator at Do Good Lab

 What Education Program opportunities did she participate in? Laurel received a scholarship to study abroad through Youth for Understanding in 2000.  She spent part of her summer before entering college in Ecuador, including a stay in the Galapagos islands.

How does she integrate international affairs into her career? Although Laurel’s work at the Coastal Commission is at the state level, her position with Do Good Lab allows her to “improve people’s lives” on an international scale. Do Good Lab is run completely by volunteers and helps empower communities across the developing world. Grassroots organizations apply for small grants of up to $20,000 to improve their communities in the areas of education, health and agriculture. Laurel contributes to the mission of Do Good Lab by communicating the impact of these grants and making connections with individuals and organizations that are also passionate about international development. She is able to clarify and personalize abstract concepts when speaking with volunteers, colleagues and potential donors. According to Laurel, “the World Affairs Council has been instrumental in developing my international perspective.”

Final LK and Aezed - Do Good Lab Executive Director 2013

Laurel with Do Good Lab Executive Director Aezed Raza at a networking event

Laurel and Do Good Lab can be followed on twitter: @LaurelKell and @DoGoodLab

As high school seniors near the end of the college application season, we invite them to review the resources available to the them through the Education Program, including blog posts about school with a strong international relations program and Campus Connections

Columbia in the fall (Photo Credit: David Stone)

Nestled in the northwestern flanks of Manhattan, Columbia University assembles thousands of students from around the world. While their interests may be varied, students share one passion: New York City- a city of manifold ethnicities, languages and heritages. If you speak to a proud student (full disclosure: this author being one), you may pick up the university’s unofficial slogan: “the greatest university in the greatest city in the world”.

New York is indubitably a remarkable city, operating at an unfathomable pace. The location of the university within NYC naturally lends to the school’s stellar international relations and political science programs. The political science faculty at Columbia and its sister school, Barnard, are experts in their respective fields of study – from war strategy to human rights to nationalism. When they’re not busy leading lectures, they’re speaking at conferences, making press appearances, or writing books and textbooks to be adopted by universities and curious minds around the world.

While housing its undergraduate programs (Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Barnard, and General Studies), Columbia also houses world-renowned graduate schools, including the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). SIPA is both a remarkable physical resource for budding political scientists, home to a stunning collection of books and data including full United Nationw archives, as well as a noteworthy academic resource. Students in the undergraduate schools can sit in on SIPA lectures, meet SIPA faculty and even take graduate level SIPA courses. If you’re ambitious enough, you can even apply for the dual bachelor’s and master’s degree program with SIPA; a select group of rising college seniors are accepted to this five-year program in international relations.

That’s just what you can do in the classroom. Some of the most outstanding resources provided to international relations students are extracurricular. I had the honor of serving as president of Columbia’s International Relations Council and Association (CIRCA), one of the school’s largest clubs boasting a membership of 300+. CIRCA annually hosts traditional Model United Nations (MUN) conferences, both for high school and college students, bringing thousands of students from around the world to NYC for two weekends of ridiculously fun, crisis-driven MUN simulations. CIRCA also hosts a speakers series throughout the year, bringing politicians, pundits and interesting political thinkers to Columbia for evening lectures. CIRCA runs a charitable program for NYC high schools called E-SIMS, where Columbia students teach MUN to high school students across the city. Lastly, CIRCA itself travels to conferences across the United States and the globe, having taken delegations to San Francisco, Cambridge, Taipei and Cairo.

When you arrive at Columbia in the fall, you’re not only welcomed by your orientation facilitators and resident advisors. You may also find yourself walking alongside world leaders such as the president of Turkey or former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Each September, the president of the university hosts the World Leaders Summit, running in tandem with the United Nations General Assembly sessions. An appropriate welcome back for a school that lives and breathes international relations in its classrooms, libraries, dorms and curious student minds!

By Rhonda Shafei, Chair, International Forum

On November 21, the World Affairs Council honored Dick Costolo at its annual Awards Dinner gala. Six education Program students were chosen to receive scholarships to attend the dinner based on their commitment to the World Affairs Council mission and entrepreneurial spirit.  Here, Marc Robert Wong describes his impressions of the evening. 

MRW Costolo

Marc with Mr. Costolo

As an alumnus of the World Affairs Council Student Ambassador program, I was honored to be invited to the 2013 Awards Dinner for Dick Costolo. The CEO of Twitter, Inc. was recognized for helping to achieve positive social change through private enterprise and for his leadership of Twitter, which is making a transformational impact on societies, economies and polities here and around the globe.

On Thursday evening, one thought Dick Costolo shared was the need to think bigger and to always make bold and courageous decisions. This piece of advice has an interesting backstory. Costolo began his career as an improvisational comic. One day in the middle of an improv class, his mentor observed that all the situations that the group of actors was coming up with were ordinary, eating dinner at a restaurant, perhaps, or sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher. The mentor gave Dick and the other students a piece of advice Costolo never forgot: THINK BIGGER.

Why limit yourself to imagining something ordinary? Break the boundaries. Think outside the box. Imagine something extraordinary, something impossible. Costolo didn’t start out with the goal of becoming the CEO of Twitter, he just started with the goal of thinking bigger and now Twitter is being used to help organize revolutions, to reunite families separated during disasters and to help raise funds to aid survivors.

The amazing tech innovations at Twitter help us connect around the world instantaneously, but it is up to us what we communicate and why. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, goes beyond simply discussing how we communicate and reminds us to THINK BIGGER. As World Affairs Council Student Ambassadors, we need to ask ourselves: What challenges will the next generation of world leaders use technology to solve?

Jane and Dick in Conversation

Jane Wales, CEO of the World Affairs Council, in conversation with Dick Costolo

By Marc Robert Wong, Junior, International High School

Audio available, video to come soon at worldaffairs.org.

Marc is the founder of Teen Tech SF, an interactive tech community for teens to innovate, collaborate and create.


This post is the second and final installment detailing our students’ participation in International Career Mentor Night.


Jennifer and other students learn about the non profit sector with Sara Ortega-Roliz

As a senior in high school, all I have on my mind is college applications and keeping up with my schoolwork. I had a clear path in my mind that after I graduated from high school I would continue my education in college, taking every opportunity I could towards my goal of becoming a special agent for the FBI.

However, after attending International Career Mentor Night at the World Affairs Council and having the opportunity to hear and talk to men and women who have each taken different paths in their lives, I can see the options I have are endless.

I learned from two of the women I talked to, Heather Franzese from Good World Solutions, and Heather Kelly from PATH, about their choice to join the Peace Corps and heard about some of the rewards they felt they received from participating in the program.  I also had the chance to talk to Steven Browning, who works for the State Department, and Sara Ortega Roliz from the Mira Scholars Foundation.

Each one of these mentors shared their story, and talked about the path they took. It was fascinating to hear the places they have been and the work they have done. I was able to see how they were able to make their dreams a reality and that they have a passion for what they do.

After attending International Career Mentor Night I have learned that my plan might change in the future, and that choosing a career that interests me is the most important part.

By Jennifer Kawaguchi, Student Ambassador, California High School

Please visit our Facebook album to see more images from International Career Mentor Night.


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