Orientation activities
Students enjoying a performance during their Marhaba Week.

NYUAD Class of 2015 Reflects on First Semester

As the first semester of the Class of 2015's freshman year draws to a close, with term papers submitted, exams taken, and bags packed for winter break, Salaam asked the students for their impressions of the University and of Abu Dhabi, and to share what experiences thus far have been the most memorable. While most touched on the educational environment, specific events that took place during the fall semester, or the sense of community at NYUAD, others reflected on the capital itself and on their own personal growth. As Sachith Cheruvatur said, "The best part of my experience here also happens to be the most painful one. The experience of growing up. The experience of watching my previous outlook on the world as a high school student who touched down in Abu Dhabi four months back being razed to the ground and experiencing the growth and development of a new and different outlook on the world — a more accepting and open one with far greater appreciation for different philosophies, cultures, sciences, religions, and most importantly, a whole new outlook to who I am and want to be."

Indeed, lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom played an important role during the Freshman class' first few months at NYUAD. For Olga Karpova, those lessons stemmed from interactions with her fellow classmates. "We all are different and unique and it is great to share my own experiences and gain something from others," she said. "There hasn't been a minute that I regret coming here — NYUAD makes my life full of events, gives me an opportunity to express myself, and do those things that I enjoy doing. It also gives me the chance to meet amazing people from around the world who I can call my friends and family now."

This sense of community was a theme upon which many students chose to comment. In addition to enjoying a close-knit familial-like environment, they discussed the diversity of the University and referred to it as "home."

"Even though this University is small in space and number of students, the atmosphere tends to be cozier than I ever imagined. We greeted each other and helped each other along the way to overcome homesickness and obstacles, either in life or in academics. I love it so much when people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds are glued with one another…I can see the vision of the global network university coming true from here." — Yunze Wen

NYUAD has surpassed every one of my expectations. The intellect and character of the students and faculty is, in my opinion, unsurpassed by any other institution. No wonder NYUAD has become such a tight-knit, trusting family.

Austin Wilson
Mastewal Terefe, NYUAD Class of 2015 shares her experience at the inaugural NYU Global Idea Exchange where members collaborate ideas on an online platform in order to answer the question: How might we activate the potential of cities to ignite a modern renaissance?
Mastewal Terefe, NYUAD Class of 2015 shares her experience at the inaugural NYU Global Idea Exchange where members collaborate ideas on an online platform in order to answer the question: How might we activate the potential of cities to ignite a modern renaissance?

"The transition to NYUAD was, naturally, not completely easy, but the fact that all the students were in the same boat made it simpler. NYUAD, its students, faculty, and staff, are truly my family away from home, and that is what makes my experiences even more worthwhile. Even though as students we are faced with many challenges, we have the full support of our university. All of our opinions and ideas are taken seriously and looked into, all of our concerns are cleared. The NYUAD community is more than just a university with people — we are a family. No matter what the circumstances are, your professor will still wake up early in the morning just to help out with your essay outline (thanks, Professor Zamir!). This is home." — Farah Mohmad

"I do not remember a single day being homesick here in Abu Dhabi. Maybe that's because I was always busy with classes, homework, and exams so did not have time to even think of homesickness. But I am sure this is also because of the strong bond among the students at NYUAD. I believe the diversity of the students is what makes us closer and more understanding toward each other." — Selbi Nuryyeva

"My favorite thing about NYUAD so far is that it is such a diverse experience. I learn so much from my fellow classmates and it's a continual process. I continue to learn new and amazing things about them and their backgrounds everyday, and I'm always surprised because people are so much more than they seem." — Amel Yagoub"The transition to NYUAD was, naturally, not completely easy, but the fact that all the students were in the same boat made it simpler. NYUAD, its students, faculty, and staff, are truly my family away from home, and that is what makes my experiences even more worthwhile. Even though as students we are faced with many challenges, we have the full support of our university. All of our opinions and ideas are taken seriously and looked into, all of our concerns are cleared. The NYUAD community is more than just a university with people — we are a family. No matter what the circumstances are, your professor will still wake up early in the morning just to help out with your essay outline (thanks, Professor Zamir!). This is home." — Farah Mohmad

"I do not remember a single day being homesick here in Abu Dhabi. Maybe that's because I was always busy with classes, homework, and exams so did not have time to even think of homesickness. But I am sure this is also because of the strong bond among the students at NYUAD. I believe the diversity of the students is what makes us closer and more understanding toward each other." — Selbi Nuryyeva

"My favorite thing about NYUAD so far is that it is such a diverse experience. I learn so much from my fellow classmates and it's a continual process. I continue to learn new and amazing things about them and their backgrounds everyday, and I'm always surprised because people are so much more than they seem." — Amel Yagoub

One thing I love about this university is that it's like a family. Everyone knows each other, and they care for you. The school listens very carefully to your thoughts and I really do love the feeling that I am a very important constituent of this university!

Gagyung Kim
First year students gather in residence during Marhaba Week to get acquainted with one another and their new home.
First year students gather in residence during Marhaba Week to get acquainted with one another and their new home.

"I love everything about the university! Everyone here is really incredible and amazing in their own crazy way, and yet the students, faculty, and staff are all very friendly and approachable. I don't have any complaints yet, but I know that if and when I do, it will be more of an opportunity to take action and change something about the school rather than a cause for disappointment." — Sachi Leith

The students were equally enthusiastic about their experiences inside the classroom, despite the challenging curriculum. As Mastewal Taddese said, "I have friends studying all over the world, in top schools on five different continents. Almost none of them believe me when I talk about the great professors and scholars that enrich NYUAD: the 10pm dinner with the deans and staff members, the number of nations represented in class, and all of the cool courses I've taken this fall. Their disbelief helps remind me that I live in a community like no other."

"I enjoyed the various exacting group projects and problem sets I had to face for several courses. Especially the Engineering superlab was a true challenge. The passion that all the students have here to solve and go beyond the obstacle in front of them is truly inspirational. In those group projects, staying up the whole night or all the hard work we put in becomes nothing when compared to that beautiful eureka moment. Thus, I can say that my impression of NYUAD is that it is a problem-solving community and I think it won't be long before we students make ourselves heard around the world with this passion." — Israel Desta

"Even though it might seem odd, I enjoyed struggling with Foundations of Science (FoS). Probably because I had and still have many sudden shifts of attitude toward it. One day I would feel depressed because of not understanding a lecture completely, another day I'd feel endlessly happy because I got inspired by discussing physics law with my professor, the next day I'd find myself with my roomies and friends altogether struggling with problem sets at 3am and being like a zombie the next day, and one day I just realized how passionate I am about science. Now looking back at all the adventures and difficulties, I understand how truly I enjoy and love FoS." — Selbi Nuryyeva

"I came here because I was attracted by the quality of education and faculty NYUAD boasted. But I had no idea what any of it truly meant until I experienced it myself. When they say that they are looking at education from a new perspective, now I know that it means having a visual designer and an ethics professor giving us lectures alongside an acclaimed chemical engineer for our first introduction class to engineering. When they say that students can really explore what they are passionate about, now I know that it means I can take a theater class while being enrolled in engineering classes. When they say that research is part of our education, now I know that it means I have to build a working prototype and give a business presentation during the intensive Design & Innovation lab and draw up a white paper for a new product while working in multidisciplinary teams. When they say that students can pursue many activities outside the classroom, now I know that that includes going for a certification course in scuba diving, learning how to play paddle tennis for the first time, and going out for paintball, ice skating, or indoor skydiving every now and then." — Petrus Layarda

"I consider every day at NYUAD to be a blessing. I am especially impressed by the faculty and staff — the quality of teaching is outstanding and I'm so glad that the small classes allow us to get to know the professors better." — Olivia Bergen

"Two aspects of NYUAD that appealed to me were the wonderful faculty from several world-ranking universities — from NYU, Swarthmore, Yale, etc. and the unique curriculum that breaks away from cut and dry versions of physics, chemistry, and biology to give us an integrated approach to comprehending the sciences better." — Sachith Cheruvatur

When it came to choosing their most memorable first-semester experiences, the students seemed to struggle. "It is very hard to limit my answer to just one specific experience, as this semester was a whole experience in itself," explained Farah Mohmad. "I had the most challenging, mind-blowing, and exhilarating experiences throughout this semester, from writing essays and pulling all-nighters to just relaxing on the beach and having the most fascinating conversations with my new friends over coffee." Additionally, there was certainly no shortage of interesting events and activities for the students to attend both on and off campus.

"Our university gives us many opportunities to try things that you have never tried before. Now I am a member of the horseback riding club, and the Dragon Boat and soccer teams. I have never imagined myself doing any of these activities, however, I decided to try and it was worth it. It is great to feel the spirit of the team and realize that you are surrounded by supportive, helpful, and caring people." — Olga Karpova

"There are so many things enjoyable at NYUAD it is very difficult to precisely choose one. But I think Marhaba Week was one of my favorite moments. It was a very fun experience and a very good start to college life." — Hidaya Ibrahim 

"Being at the official 40th National Day Celebration was one of the greatest experiences in my first semester at NYUAD. Not only did I experience a culture filled with love and pride toward the UAE and its achievements, but also I was able to share this experience with fellow classmates from all over the world, as well as the Sheikh Mohamed Scholars. Coming together from different backgrounds to celebrate the UAE thus mirrors the society of the UAE and the unity created without regard to an individual's culture, nationality, or religion."— Caroline Gobena

My favorite things from this first semester were the events that brought students together, such as open mic night or cheering on the dragon boat team on the beach. Halloween, National Day, and the Real AD Show at the beginning of the year were important memories from my first semester at college that really demonstrated the sense of community at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Tessa Carelli
The NYUAD Dragon Boat team participates in the first race of the season.
The NYUAD Dragon Boat team participates in the first race of the season.

"It's almost impossible to pinpoint a specific experience that made this semester for me; what has made my first term at NYUAD so fantastic has been the concentration of so much that I've enjoyed and appreciated in such shorts spans of time. The open mic nights are particularly extraordinary in my opinion, just because they cram so much incredible talent and fun into only a few hours." — Jamie Sutherland

"One of the experiences that I really enjoyed during the first semester was definitely participating in the Dragon Boat competition. Not only did we compete and show good results, but we also got a chance to know people from other universities and educational institutions who competed at our level." — Oleg Pasternac

"I loved the Halloween celebrations on campus. It was so much fun to see all the kids dressed up and to show some of the non-American students about this crazy holiday!" — Olivia Bergen

"Without any exaggeration, I have enjoyed almost everything I did this semester. But my favorite experience was the UAE National Day. That evening, walking from Sama Tower to the Corniche, I witnessed a completely different side of Abu Dhabi. I had never seen such a level of patriotism. My friends and I enjoyed as the city went crazy...in love and celebration for the UAE." — Mastewal Taddese

After four months away, most of the students will be heading home for winter break. And judging from the quotes below, they'll miss their home away from home.

"It goes without saying that the culture of Abu Dhabi is completely different from that which I got used to in Russia, America, or Europe. However, I loved experiencing these differences. Abu Dhabi is very international, you can meet people from all different corners of the world, and I admire it a lot." — Olga Karpova 

"Discovering Abu Dhabi along with my classmates has been one of the most enriching experiences. Taking a moment to enjoy the city or to do my homework outside of Sama Tower has shown me all this city has to offer and the culture that it holds. I hope to continue to grow as a person in this crazy place that I never knew I would be a part of and love as much as I do." — Amel Yagoub

"The city of Abu Dhabi reminds me a lot of my own home, Kerala, India. Many from my homeland earn a living here and a lot of the money from here goes to sustaining millions of homes back in south India. This city has a major role to play in my life as well. My grandfather worked as an engineer at the oil refineries in Abu Dhabi decades ago when the city was still in its infancy. It was with that income that my grandfather bought the house in which my family resided in for the past 30 years. It was also that money that financed my father's tuition fee for college and higher studies. Following him, my father happened to bring his business over to Abu Dhabi and worked with the one of the Sheiks for close to two years. Now, the descendant of a refinery engineer and a former businessman — both of whom sought refuge in the sands of this beautiful Emirate — flies in from the Malabar coast to quench his thirst for knowledge and experience this beautiful oasis in the desert." — Sachith Cheruvatur

For Anna Eckert, responding with her impressions of Abu Dhabi awakened her creative side: "Pakistani men cycling. Whisper, chatter, laughter. The smoke of cigarettes in the narrow side alleys. In alleys where the night falls so incredibly quickly like a guillotine. Leaving us headless, bodiless, shapeless. The sky’s dark velvet veils hands and eyes. The city sleeps but we are still awake. Empty plastic bags are dancing to a distant melody. Restless fairies in the drafts. I hold my breath. An elusive moment of silence. The own heart beat hurts, bursts your ears. A musician inside bangs the drums. Somewhere in a chest. I exhale. My suitcase is empty now, unpacked. I arrived. Good morning, Abu Dhabi. Good morning to you and your fierce beauty."