Gabriela James Noguera (GSAS ’20)

Gabriela James Noguera (GSAS ’20) is an independent thinker whose interest in diverse viewpoints has taken her studies around the world. A UK native, Gabriela chose to attend New York University for a graduate degree in Irish Studies to get a fresh perspective on the subject and a chance to pursue a variety of aspects of Irish culture, from economics to literature. Her love for connecting seemingly unrelated ideas led her to write her master’s thesis on vampires and Irish culture, which received the Master’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. Read about her experience at NYU as an international student and hear about her advice for taking full advantage of what the University has to offer.  

Why did you choose to enroll in NYU’s Irish Studies program?

I enrolled in NYU’s Irish Studies program because I have always believed in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches. In fact, this belief underpinned my choice to pursue postgraduate education in the US, rather than my native UK. The Irish Studies program offers a flexible, diverse curriculum: encompassing literature, linguistics, history, economics, geography and much more; nothing is off limits. This flexibility gave me the opportunity to study things that more traditional programs might not be able to accommodate.

From the moment I was accepted, it was clear to me that this department cares about its students. It fosters a strong and nurturing community, which I am privileged to have joined. It was also a pivotal moment for Ireland in many ways. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, Britain’s historical inability to fully consider Ireland was foregrounded, and I wanted to address these gaps. There is so much that we should learn from and about Ireland, and this program offered the ideal opportunity.

What kinds of activities did you participate in as a student?

I embraced as many opportunities as possible! This included seminars on topics from breaking into publishing, to the profitability of diverse workplaces, to the place of free speech in education.

I was an active member of the GSAS Master's College Program Board, and planned and attended dozens of events with them. We hosted a variety of events, from formal networking to Cinema Club, and the always engaging Café Discourse.

I was also Director of Communications for the invaluable Students for Sexual Respect, and I took part in many of the great events organized by the International Student Center and the International Student Council. Another wonderful way to destress from my studies was at the creative writing club. Aside from this, I had the opportunity to attend exciting book launches and academic conferences, and had an all-around dynamic and fulfilling time throughout my degree.

NYU is sometimes described as a school that’s “in and of the city” how has that been true for you?

My experience of NYU was diverse, cosmopolitan, tolerant, and always engaging. This is true within the university, but I think that’s in large part due to the accepting culture of the city. NYU exists very much within New York’s community; a short stroll through Washington Square Park will give insight into our peaceful co-existence. Having seen so many British towns with tensions between the students and townspeople, I know that this is far from universal. NYU promotes the tolerance and acceptance it needs to survive in such a dynamic city.

Many of the amazing opportunities that I had were born of New York’s incredible resources. From book launches and museum tours, to visiting speakers, there’s never a dull moment and NYU encourages and facilitates these experiences.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?

Because of COVID-19, my plans remain somewhat uncertain. I have been accepted to a doctoral program, and might enroll this fall or defer until next year; the uncertainty of access to teaching and resources makes this a difficult decision. I am also applying to jobs in the publishing industry, but the economic uncertainty of this time makes this very challenging.

What advice would you give an incoming student to maximize their time at NYU?

Say ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as you can! That doesn’t mean you should put pressure on yourself to always be busy, or that you have to visit every tourist hot-spot in your first semester. Just make sure you have a list of things you want to do, and a group of buddies who are also excited to go with you. Make time every week to do something from your list, whether it’s as simple as ordering a sandwich from a famous diner, or as involved as spending a day exploring the Met. Your list will probably grow faster than you check things off, but that’s the beauty of NYU and NYC. Also remember that NYU has some of the world’s best professors. Talk to them as much as you can about your projects and your progress.

The most important thing is to be open. Leave your expectations at home, and come excited to make lifelong friends from around the world. Take advantage of new activities and leave with passions that had never even occurred to you.