Graduate Spotlight: Defne Inhan

“When I told my friends I might go to China for my undergraduate studies, they thought I was crazy,” says Defne Inhan ‘18, from Turkey. But after studying abroad during high school, she knew she wanted to study in an international environment.

After experiencing Admitted Students Weekend, she realized NYU Shanghai would be the perfect setting to pursue her passion for what became her major--neuroscience and psychology, her minor.

Initially drawn to becoming a therapist, Inhan wanted to back her existing knowledge of psychology with a foundation in the sciences. “I have always been fascinated by human behavior, so neuroscience was something I knew I wanted to do,” she said. “It was appealing to me to study something like human behavior from the perspective of the brain.”

“Over time, I started seeing connections between classes. I’m taking a class right now called Free Will and the Brain, which connects neuroscience and the philosophy of science to see how we can use neuroscientific information to back up our ideas about whether free will exists.”

Inhan took advantage of the opportunities to study away in New York and Ghana to further explore her field and discover her interests.

At NYU in New York City, Inhan took courses in psychology, child and adolescent mental health studies, and on sleep and dreams. “I made connections with great professors, I worked in a lab, and I met some amazing lifelong friends outside of NYU that introduced me to dance, which I realized could be incorporated into therapy.”

She began contemplating whether she wanted to pursue research, become a scientist, or incorporate movement-based art therapy into a career. In the spring semester of her junior year, Inhan decided to discover more of the arts by studying away for a third semester, this time in Accra.

“It was like zooming out and zooming back in from a different side and seeing the whole story of the world in a new way,” she said. “It was an eye-opening experience, all of the classes I took, from documentary filmmaking, drumming and traditional African dance to community psychology and ethnomusicology.”

During her semester in Accra, Inhan befriended local Ghanaians and learned how to play the separawa, an archaic instrument of Ghana that was remembered back into existence from a man’s dream and taught to her by the dreamer’s grandson.

“I came back so nourished and fulfilled, like I had something to give back to both places as much as I was taking from them,” she said. “It's been so rewarding to study at these places and have such amazing connections with people.”

As for after-graduation plans, Inhan has been inspired to either pursue a masters in developmental neuroscience and psychoanalysis or a research internship in New York.

“I’m so happy I came here. It definitely changed my life.”