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A standard iPhone alarm starts bellowing from Ana Karneza's 4th floor residence room filling the whole suite with its melodic blast then goes quiet in a minute.
The alarm goes off again, this time playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The process repeats and the suite returns to its default state of almost complete silence with the occasional rustling of textbook pages and crackling of cereal.
“Ana-a-a, wake up!!!” yells Vongai Mlambo, Ana’s Zimbabwean roommate, whose soft voice and ambient presence seems to do the trick every alarm fails at: to wake up a girl who seems to be in everlasting hibernation. Ana, reluctant to leave the comfortable cocoon of warm blankets, yawns a couple dozen times and eventually gets up, hurrying into the common room to make a cup of coffee, the college equivalent of an elixir of life.
This is how Ana usually starts her mornings. She is a first-year NYU Abu Dhabi student from Slovenia, a small country in the middle of Europe everyone seems to mistake for its slightly bigger brother next door, Slovakia.
“I'm from Slovenia, guys, not Slovakia!” she frequently gasps, rolling her eyes. At a campus where people of some 110 different nationalities interact every day, meeting someone from a country you’ve never heard of is somewhat usual.
But after spending more time with students from all over the world, you start to realize that passports don't matter when it comes to friendship. Instead, relationships are formed by watching sci-fi movies, playing basketball, singing, or simply talking about things that are fascinating in this world.
Holding a cup of coffee in hand, singing to the new, beautiful start of the day, Ana rides her scooter to her first class: Algorithms. Although useful and convenient, the scooter is not an object of her choice. She is just a tiny bit smaller than what most of us would call short, being about a meter in height.
Her predicament, perceived by many as a weakness, is in fact the opposite as the condition gives rise to the strongest features of Ana’s personality: sincere love for life, appreciation for the details that brighten her day, and a powerful desire to live. When asked about challenges associated with her height, she shrugs her shoulders and laughs “I guess I don’t need that much leg room on a plane."
After class it’s time for Ana’s first break of the day: lunch. She is vegan, and coming from Slovenia, where traditional cuisine is defined by pork sausages she is making an unpopular choice: “I started veganism about two years ago, and it wasn’t easy in the beginning: my family did not take my intentions seriously.
“[Going vegan is] a very big step for me as an environmentally cognizant person. Even though relatively small, this step is crucial for creating a big impact in sum with other environmentally conscious decisions.”
Normal school life resumes. Ana’s next class is a mandatory requirement for all first-year students designed to teach the basics of academic writing. "Having attended traditional Slovenian school where almost none of my classes were in English, taking a writing seminar exposes me to an academic environment where I get to read books I wouldn’t read otherwise," she says. "Contemplating about thesis for a paper also brought my analytical skills to a whole new level.”
Exhausted and starving, Ana finds her way to the dining hall to get her favorite meal of the day: dinner. For Ana, it's the most relaxed point of the day where she can de-stress from unfinished assignments and upcoming projects.
This is the time that most people spread out on a couch and turn on their favorite TV show. NYUAD students like Ana can only dream of such reality. Instead, she gets energized with a third cup of coffee and heads to the Engineering Design Studio, a space for aspiring inventors, engineers, and scientists to get immersed in a world of numbers, logical problems, and programming lexicon. She takes an occasional break to cruise around campus and catch a glimpse of stars in the night sky. “I truly am blessed to be here," she says.
Ana gathers her belongings, grabs her computer, and leaves the workplace quietly. Ten minutes later, she arrives to her room, puts on her favorite cozy pajamas and crashes on her soft pillow. Another productive day on campus is in the books.