Hoor Alnuaimi’s first impression of Maitha AlSuwaidi, her assigned roommate during Marhaba (meaning ‘welcome’ in Arabic, Marhaba is student orientation week), was not your typical first-year encounter. “I entered the room and saw this woman with her bow and arrow, and I was intrigued!” Their friendship supported each other through their time at NYU Abu Dhabi, and is partly responsible for leading both young scholars into securing one of the most prestigious scholarships in higher education.
AlSuwaidi comes from the emirate of Sharjah. “I’ve never lived in Abu Dhabi before, and I only have distant family members here,” AlSuwaidi explained. Meeting Alnuaimi who is from Abu Dhabi, changed things.
AlSuwaidi and Alnuami became each other’s safe harbor. They grew their circle of friends together and explored campus events and activities. “I feel like having Hoor as a close friend was very reassuring and gave me a sense of stability that I needed through the years,” said AlSuwaidi, who was part of the UAE National Archery Team, and led “Oh, Shoot!” an archery student interest group on campus.
The pair grew closer due to similar interests, particularly in writing. “[AlSuwaidi] pushed me to write, and we would schedule these little writing dates around the city,” Alnuaimi said. It was also this sort of encouragement that got Alnuaimi to attend slam poetry nights and perform poetry at The Arts Center at NYUAD.
AlSuwaidi was the first to receive a call from NYUAD Director of Global Awards Doug Cutchins about being awarded the 2021 UAE Rhodes Scholarship. When Alnuaimi received her good news, Cutchins mentioned who the other scholar was. “When he said Maitha’s name, it was a very organic heartfelt moment. I started screaming on the phone yelling ‘That’s my roommate! That’s my roommate!” Alnuaimi said.
The one and only time they had ever discussed the Rhodes Scholarship together was during their first year. Back in their room after an awards information session, the two women chatted. “It was a very tangential conversational where I asked if she was going to apply, and it was a ‘maybe’ and I told her ‘maybe’ as well,” Alnuaimi said.
Almost four years later, that “maybe” became a reality for both, spurred on by the campus environment that both found conducive to developing a strong work ethic.
“It was never our end goal. It was just the perfect combination of having us really immerse ourselves in our lives at NYUAD.” AlSuwaidi said.
“We don’t really recognize that it wasn’t just the pandemic that was the challenge, it was getting through those four years, that was a challenge,” AlSuwaidi said. Leaving one’s comfort zone to come study at NYUAD, overcoming deadlines and assignments, and navigating experiences in classes locally and abroad are just some of the obstacles that seniors overcame together, well before the pandemic became a reality in 2020. Remember to “celebrate yourself,” AlSuwaidi said, for all of the small and big accomplishments.
For Alnuaimi, NYUAD is “a utopia” where the world comes together on an island in Abu Dhabi. It is a place where every student carries a rare sense of optimism with them. “When I graduate, I’m going to take a piece of that utopia with me,” Alnuaimi said.