Students from New York University Abu Dhabi will be sent to Greece to research how Athens can become the world’s next big megacity.
Athens will serve as a case study of a vibrant historical capital now faced with an unprecedented economic crisis, high unemployment and a large number of refugees when 1,200 students visit various parts of the globe during “J-term” — or January term — this month.
Students will travel to Greece, Italy, London, Singapore, India, Morocco, Djibouti and Jordan, among others, as 83 courses are offered over three weeks to help students delve deeper into their chosen topics.
"The purpose of J-term is to give students an intensified experience with fieldwork in the real world after grounding them in the theory of a particular discipline," said Carol Brandt, vice provost and associate vice chancellor of global education and outreach at NYUAD.
"Each J-term, students go beyond the classroom to experience academic concepts through hands-on research, allowing them to explore and engage with the global academic community of which they are a part."
J-term has been running at NYUAD since 2010.
Sophia Kalantzakos, head of the Environmental Humanities Research Initiative and professor in environmental studies and public policy at NYUAD, is heading up the course in Athens titled City in Crisis: Refuge and Resilience in Greece.
It explores the modern challenges that cities face all over the world and she chose Athens for the trip as it is a capital city that has gone through unprecedented challenges.
Ms Kalantzakos believes that regional research travel allows students to gain hands-on experience, takes them outside the classroom and gives them the opportunity to interact with experts and members of the community.
She said that in Athens, students will be visiting the members of the Hellenic Parliament, working with non-governmental organisations, discussing challenges with local experts and touring the city to experience first-hand both the “decay and rejuvenation of different areas".
Students will also engage with refugees living in the capital.
Carlos Riofrio, 21, from Ecuador and studying economics, social research, and public policy said the trip to Athens would help motivate him to help affect change.
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“I am extremely excited to be a part of these projects. These courses motivate me to keep working hard to create a positive social impact," he said.
“We will be able to put our knowledge and thinking in to practice.”
Mr Riofrio said he chose to travel to Greece to learn more about the grave challenges cities face with the refugee crisis causing forced migration.
He is looking forward to challenging his knowledge and said that travelling to diverse locations and working on projects makes him understand the impact of learning.
Sebastian Caro, 19, from Colombia, is an economics major who is part of a course called Law in Entrepreneurship. Although his course will be studied in the UAE, he was positive about the benefits of J-term.
“What makes J-term different is we have international trips that provide an outside perspective, he said.
“Students are going to travel intellectually stimulated and curious to ask the important questions."