First Year Dialogues Return to Build Campus Community

Students chat and laugh in cafe
Mar 5 2021

This week marked a milestone for the NYU Shanghai campus community with the return of the First Year Dialogues series on March 3, starting with the program’s first “Story Sharing” event.

Travel restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19 prevented the Class of 2024 from fully taking part in the orientation tradition of the First Year Dialogues (FYD)  – a small-group discussion series designed to build class community – at the start of the Fall 2020 semester. But now that many international members of the first-year class are in Shanghai, the FYD program is making its reappearance with a complete series of six sessions that will run through the end of April 2021.

“We think it’s a good time to start FYD in person, so students can find more opportunities to talk face-to-face and establish very important personal connections,” said Shelly Lu, Assistant Director for New Student and Diversity Programs in the Office of Student Life.

Traditionally, First Year Dialogues (FYD) have been an integral part of first-year students’ first month of life on campus. The series of small group conversations, led by upperclassmen Orientation Advisors (OAs), helped students get to know their peers more deeply, encouraging them to think about the many layers of identity from individual personality to cultural and social background. As students gained more experience interacting with their roommates and their classmates, the FYD program helped them identify more effective interpersonal communication strategies that could forge and maintain bonds of friendship in NYU Shanghai’s uniquely multicultural and pluralistic community. 

“FYD is the first set of many dialogues in a student’s career at NYU Shanghai intending to develop their global citizenship,” said Stephanie Anderson ’23, one of the OA facilitators leading the FYD sessions for the Class of 2024. “I think FYD really drew everyone closer together and created a strong support base for me beginning my life in Shanghai. I made genuine connections with the people in my group, and I like to think I am still very close with many of them.” 

“As a person who moved a lot as I grew up, I remember the FYD experience as being the first time that I had to identify not only to others, but also to myself, where my home was, and how it shaped me as a person,” said Riley Whitt ’23, who is also serving as an OA facilitator. “Since coming to NYU Shanghai is a unique experience for every individual person, I think one of the most valuable experiences FYD gave me was in guiding me to learn about myself.”

This year’s FYD will include efforts to address the many unique challenges that the Class of 2024 faced during their transition from high school to college in 2020, one of the most tumultuous years our world has faced in recent memory. Resilience and identifying personal strategies to overcome difficulties will be a key theme, in addition to connecting with campus resources. 

Whitt said the Class of 2024 FYD participants have a unique advantage in starting the program in the Spring semester, since they now have a wealth of shared campus experiences that can inform their discussions and take conversations deeper.

“Rather than using dialogues to talk about adapting to life at NYU Shanghai and building bridges between students who are new to our community as we did before, we can instead focus on developing intra-community connections. During my first welcome meeting with my group last week, we were able to bond over shared classes, midterm stress, and school activities,” Whitt said.

“I love seeing how the students in my group are happy, comfortable, and settled-in at our school, and are choosing to participate in these dialogues in order to meet new people and form new friendships. After such a trying year for all of us, I feel as though a dialogue-based program like FYD is exactly what everyone, facilitators and students alike, needs to reconnect to each other and the school community.”