I've Been Everywhere, Man

Written by Paul Fairchild in the May 2013 Issue

Shanghai, China

Seville, SpainZachary Stanley is no secret agent. But he’s been around the world more times than James Bond. At the age of 20, this New York University biology student may be Edmond’s biggest globetrotter. In his two years at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates, Stanley has traveled to 16 different countries—from Argentina to Laos. By the time he turns 21 this year, he’ll have visited five more countries.

Berlin Wall, Germany“I’m a walking billboard for Edmond. When I travel, I’m usually the first Oklahoman who people have met. There are 140 of us in the school’s inaugural class. We represent 40 countries. At the beginning of the semester when we introduce ourselves to other students, we say who we are and where we’re from. There are students from around the world in the class, but when I say I’m from Oklahoma, they turn around and tell me that’s the most exotic place they’ve heard of. It makes me feel like an ambassador and I’m constantly talking up my hometown.”

Taj Majal, IndiaFrom his dorm room, Stanley sees a mind-boggling mixture of history and progress. The Abu Dhabi skyline is peppered with skyscrapers, most still under construction—a sign that his home away from home, Abu Dhabi, is growing rapidly and moving into a new, global era. But in the middle of this skyline is an excellent view of the Qasr al Hosn, Abu Dhabi’s ancient palace. Everyday, as Stanley awakens to the sound of the Muslim call to prayer, he sits on the edge of history, watching the growing mix of traditional Muslim culture and new landmarks demonstrating Abu Dhabi’s rush to a newer, bigger, cosmopolitan way of life.

Pyramids, EgyptHe credits the support he received as a student in Edmond with his place in NYU’s new program and his deep desire to get out there and see the world. Teachers—too many to name, he says—at Edmond North pushed him to excel academically and meet the high standards set by NYU for its applicants. After transferring from North to the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, his counselor there fielded the initial phone call from an NYU admissions officer looking for the best and brightest. The counselor took the officer up on his offer and picked Stanley as a top candidate, nudging him mercilessly to give NYU’s program serious consideration. Stanley bought in, was accepted and launched his globetrotting career.

Petra, JordanFor most people, travel is synonymous with entertainment. Stanley’s thinking on the subject is unusually different. “It’s been really great to broaden my horizons,” he says. “In addition to getting a new perspective on the world, I love to see how people from other places think. That’s something I love to think about. What do others think about America? It’s so interesting to me. I want to see fresh perspectives. I want to see America the way other people see it.”

Times Square, NYStanley’s quick to say that even with his love of new cultures, new people and new places to visit, he does get homesick for Edmond. Though he has no trouble making friends around the globe, he does miss his hometown friends. Living in the desert, he misses Oklahoma’s green grass. He also misses Edmond’s unique mix of food. Being in a place where pork doesn’t show up on the dinner table, he’s looking forward to a visit to Steve’s Rib, where he can also find a good fried chicken sandwich and a plate of fried okra.

Elephants in ThailandAfter graduating from NYU, Stanley plans to bring his global experience back to Oklahoma to pursue a career in medicine. “I’m applying to medical school this summer. I’ll be applying to OU, but regardless of where I attend school, I feel a huge amount of indebtedness to Oklahoma. For me, it’s incredibly important to get back. I’m interested in maybe practicing medicine on reservations,” he says. “But my plans are open. We’ll see how it goes.”

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