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Voices from Abroad

Dining – and Learning – on the Danube

Undergraduate student Aditi Shankar blogs about studying abroad at NYU London.

Hello, Sternies around the world! As midterms come to a close, here’s a quick update on what I’ve been up to while studying abroad in London.
 
Leaning In
This semester, my friends and I promised each other that we would venture outside of central London, to truly explore and appreciate everything the city has to offer us. Even before coming back to London, we discovered that UBS was sponsoring a new Annie Leibovitz exhibition, entitled “Women: New Portraits.” The show celebrated Leibovitz’s decades of work photographing celebrities, politicians, athletes and ‘average people.’ The exhibition is traveling – the inaugural city was London, and the portraits are currently on display in Tokyo. Leaving central London was certainly a feat, but we finally felt like actual Londoners, rather than tourists or students. We left the exhibition feeling especially retrospective – the day served as a brief respite before the madness of the semester began.
 
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BPE takes Budapest
Last semester, the entire Business and Political Economy program hopped on the Eurostar to Brussels for a weekend to study the dynamics of the European Union. This semester, we traveled to Budapest to analyze an economy still in transition from communist-era socialism to market regulated capitalism. Professor Paul Wachtel, head of the BPE program, accompanied us on the trip – many of us took Macroeconomics with Professor Wachtel last year, and it was definitely nice to see a familiar Stern face outside of Tisch Hall.

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The trip started off with a company visit to Mahart Boat Company, a 100-year old Hungarian shipping company. The Director of Marketing exhaustively covered the entire history of the company. The presentation was especially interesting as Mahart has survived multiple economic transitions and still remains viable in what seems to be an incredibly competitive market. The Mahart headquarters are situated on the Danube itself – it was the first time I had attended a company visit on a boat.
 
After the company visit, we stopped for some traditional Eastern European food in the center of Pest (1/2 of Budapest) before heading to the Hungarian Central Bank. We were greeted at the central bank by the chief economist, who also happened to be Professor Wachtel’s old colleague/friend. Prior to our visit to the Hungarian Central Bank, I hadn’t even considered the monetary/fiscal policies of ex-Soviet countries. The trip was eye-opening.

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The next day, we were treated to a scavenger hunt competition. Even though it was pouring, our Stern competitive sides shone through as we raced around Budapest in teams of 15, searching to find various monuments and attractions and taking pictures of interactions with local Hungarian people. St. Stephen’s Basilica was particularly impressive, as were the houses of parliament. Both reflected traditional Eastern European architecture, which we don’t see very often in the highly cosmopolitan cities of London and New York. We also visited the House of Terrors – a museum dedicated to sharing the stories those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed during the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in 20th century Hungary. Many of us have visited the famous Holocaust Museum in DC, and seeing the Eastern European perspective (where a lot of the terror actually occurred) was enlightening.

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The trip culminated in a beautiful dinner cruise on the Danube, where the winners of the scavenger hunt were announced. Unfortunately, my team did not win, but a friend did give me a piece of his Hungarian chocolate. Not quite up to Belgian standards, but definitely better than Cadbury.
 
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Stern trips are always extremely well-planned (and fun) – BPE students are truly grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to travel with Stern this past year.
 
Ich bin ein Berliner
NYU has 13 portal campuses. This semester, I have friends at six portal campuses. Stern (and NYU) make the study abroad process so easy. One of my closest friends from freshman year, Natalie (CAS `18), is studying abroad at NYU Berlin this semester. A couple of BPE friends joined me on a trip to visit her. In fact, Natalie’s suitemate lived with my BPE friend, Daniella (BPE `18), freshman year. It’s common knowledge that NYU has a very large student body, but I always seem to find connections at every corner of the world.

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After my lovely stay in Budapest, I was excited to see more of Eastern Europe. The city is still transitioning, and the counter-culture of Berlin defines the social life and nightlife. We toured the famous Jewish memorial, saw the Brandenburg Gate and, of course, walked by the Berlin Wall. It was truly shocking when I realized that the institution of the Berlin Wall was still alive a mere 25 years ago. It was especially nice reconnecting with Natalie and seeing Berlin from a student’s perspective.

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I swear I’m studying, Mom!
I tried to stockpile a lot of travel at the beginning of the semester before my school courses became too demanding. I’m taking an extra class this semester, so my workload is a bit more substantial than that of the average NYU London student. Regardless, I’m absolutely loving staying busy with school, extra-curricular activities and friends. I serve as NYU Tamid’s Marketing Director, which forces me to socialize with non-BPE students and interact with the London campus as whole. I’ve also made more of an effort to see more of London and explore coffee shops/cafes that are both aesthetically pleasing (for the gram, of course) and comfortable for all-day studying.

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Never far from NYC
Dean Menon and and Vice-Dean Deo visited NYU London recently and hosted a reception for BPE students. We were able to provide our feedback from the program and hear more information about Stern administrative plans and NYC happenings. I sometimes feel disconnected from Stern while studying abroad, but the School really makes an effort to keep in touch with students studying abroad. Technology makes it quite easy to keep connected with the NYC campus -- socially, academically and professionally. In terms of recruiting/summer internships, most of my peers are in the process of interviewing via Skype, and many are already fielding offers. Employers actually find our study-abroad experiences fascinating – it always makes for a good conversation starter. In fact, I had a Skype interview in Budapest, which at the time seemed like a completely foreign concept. I received an offer after that interview, so clearly it worked out well!

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