A Class of 2021 Reflection: Malak Abdel-Ghaffar

We ask Malak Abdel-Ghaffar  from NYU Abu Dhabi Class of 2021 to reflect on her college journey, and she shares with us the friendships formed, how she’s grown, and her favorite NYUAD memories.

Name: Malak Abdel-Ghaffar 
Major: Literature and Creative Writing
Country: Egypt

Malak Abdel-Ghaffar, NYU Abu Dhabi Class of 2021.

For your friendships formed during university, what has surprised you most about them? 

I walked into my first year residential accommodation terrified of who my roommate will be. When we started unpacking, she asked me questions about my culture, family, and life. We spoke completely different languages, literally and metaphorically. For around two months, we really struggled to get along due to differences in lifestyles. But one thing we had in common was our love for hot Cheetos and chocolate. Midway through our first year, we started hanging out together a lot more, eating, talking, and watching television series. 

In only a few weeks, we transformed to becoming best friends. Now, I couldn’t imagine my life without her, and we continue to be close until today. Although we weren’t able to be together for the past year and a half, we’ve kept in touch regardless. This is just a glimpse of the friendship I’ve made at NYUAD. I’ve made lifelong friendships here, I’m just sure of it.

How has NYUAD helped shape who you are today?

When I first got to campus, I was terrified. Terrified of leaving home, moving to a new place, leaving my friends behind, and starting a new life. I forced myself to participate in everything that pushed me out of my comfort zone: Student interest groups (SIG), outings with new people, and taking classes outside of my major. NYUAD has transformed me into who I am today through every conversation, encounter, and experience I’ve had.

I’ve traveled to over 15 countries, lived in four different continents, and met people I would have never come across if I had stayed back home.

Malak Abdel-Ghaffar, NYUAD Class of 2021

What are some of your favorite memories of being an NYUAD student?

I was sitting in Washington Square Park during my semester abroad in New York, eating from my favorite cookie dough store. It was a sunny day and I was just starting to become comfortable with the new move. For the past year, I was working with ElevatED, the education SIG on campus to create a children’s book to distribute to refugee children in Jordan. The team was collaboratively working on the project across three different continents and we were all exhausted from the process. 

There were so many logistical challenges and many times we wanted to give up on the project. As I was scrolling through my phone, my project partner sent me a picture of her holding the first physical copy of the book. It suddenly hit me that my dream of becoming a published author came true at the age of 21! I started crying in the middle of the park and I couldn’t contain those tears of joy. 

NYUAD has given me the opportunity to pursue my dream, help others, and advance in my career. Happy crying in the middle of Washington Square Park will always be a moment I hold close to my heart when I look back to my NYUAD experience. 

How has senior year been? 

When I first got the email that senior year will be taught remotely, I was at a very low point in my life. I felt like my university experience has come to an abrupt end, one that I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t want to settle for. 

I was scared about not being able to go back to campus: I hadn’t said goodbye to my friends, the campus, the professors, or my life in Abu Dhabi. But thankfully, like many others, we were able to return to campus to continue our education with safety measures in place. 

Although senior year has been so different to anything I’ve ever experienced before, it was surprisingly a year full of exploration, reflection, and acceptance. While the Class of 2021 was deprived of many experiences previous senior classes had, I feel we managed to make something new for ourselves. 

There’s never been a time when I felt more connected to the city; I was able to take many walking trips around Abu Dhabi to explore new places. I’ve also had the deepest conversations with my friends because of the more intimate settings and restrictions. It’s challenging for me to not be able to go to classes, meet people in random places, or have large senior year gatherings. I felt lonely many times, but I’ve always been able to remind myself of the other opportunities that have been presented to me. I’ve never felt more grateful for everything this institution has provided me.