The internship and volunteer experiences I had helped me explore my passion for social justice.
Gap years are an increasingly popular option for university graduates seeking meaningful life experiences before starting a job or going for another degree. NYU Abu Dhabi students who chose volunteer work or fellowships after graduation is on the rise, which is not a surprise since volunteering is a big part of undergraduate life at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Alumna Evgenija Filova, a visual arts major from Macedonia, bought a plane ticket home after commencement feeling a little uncertain but before long, found a dream volunteer opportunity at Peacepainting Foundation in Nordland, Norway, where she now lives in a homestay with the organization’s founder.
“My job is not to just take part in the daily work of Peacepainting, which involves getting interviewed by the local newspaper, strategizing funding, updating the website, and organizing workshops in a language I understand little of yet, but also to understand and enjoy life in this small place in northern Norway," she explains.
"I have found myself shopping for lamps, dragging furniture across the house, going for hikes up the frozen mountain, visiting grandparents and trying to explain in my best Norwegian how much I love their homemade cake and what life in Abu Dhabi was like.”
Filova is among the 67 percent of Class of 2018 alumni who didn’t return to stay in home country after graduation. Her classmates are currently spread out volunteering, working, or at graduate schools in 50 different countries. Most chose to stay in the Middle East region, followed by North America, then Western Europe.
In Lisbon, Portugal, alumna Hannah Taylor, winner of a Fulbright scholarship, is working on a research project of her own. Her degree from NYUAD is in social research and public policy.
"The internship and volunteer experiences I had helped me explore my passion for social justice and led to personal and professional connections that I still value deeply. Research experiences helped me understand how to manage a project from start to finish, which has been paramount as I develop my own research project in Lisbon.”
Instead of starting a career or continuing his studies after graduation, Louis Plotell, a double major in economics and Arab Crossroads Studies from the Class of 2016, went exploring. He commenced a journey around the Perigord region of France in a horse-drawn carriage, visiting prehistoric caves, meeting with farmers and artists in the region, and practicing a traveling artistic project aimed at addressing the relationships between humans, animals, and nature.
The project taught Plotell that meaningful interactions with local people is the best way to truly appreciate complex global problems. “It is impossible to understand any issue without understanding how it affects those who are living it most deeply. NYUAD gave me a small taste of the diversity of the globe, and how to approach it with an open heart and investigative mind.”