Now that the Marhaba festivities have drawn to a close, the school year has begun, and the new freshman class is beginning to settle into University life, Salaam asked a few members of the Class of 2016 to reflect on their first week at NYUAD, how they felt before arriving on campus, what their favorite experiences have been thus far, and what they look forward to in the coming academic year.
For many students, the days before their arrival at NYUAD were filled with anxious anticipation. "I felt a strange mixture of excitement and anxiety — I was looking forward to challenging myself in a new environment, but nervous about leaving the previous phase of my life behind," said Canadian Robson Beaudry. A few of his classmates shared his roller coaster of pre-arrival emotions.
"I was nervous and apprehensive of not being accepted by my peers. Now, I think that was the most ridiculous misconception I was worried about. I've realized that at NYUAD, no one judges you for your differences. Instead, you are a part of one big family where everyone has so much in common, and so much more to share." — Nandita Chaturvedi, India.
"In the days before my arrival I was quietly anxious and overwhelmed. There were so many things I knew that I needed to do in order to prepare and so little time. Furthermore, I knew there would be many unexpected challenges during the travel and orientation process, thus, I was in a constant state of uneasy anticipation. Now I am feeling a lot more relaxed." — Daniel Brown, Australia
"Before my arrival I felt anxious, excited, and intimidated by the potential academic work load. However, now I am starting to adapt to my surroundings and have started to feel more comfortable with the new changes in my life." — Maria Fernanda Arango, El Salvador
"I was constantly questioning myself if I had what it takes to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime privilege, but at the same time, I was thrilled that I was a part of this exotic community. Now, all of this that I'm experiencing feels much more like my second home." — Si Young Byun, Korea
Despite being from Abu Dhabi, emotions also ran high for Aisha Alhajeri. "I definitely wasn't feeling jet-lagged or homesick," she said, "but I was just as excited for Marhaba week as any foreign student!"
Indeed, Marhaba included a range of highly anticipated activities, from welcome addresses and introductions to outings and a variety of entertainment. For Djordje Modrakovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the trip to Dubai included one of his favorite experiences. "The amazing view from the top of the Burj Khalifa will definitively mark my memories of Marhaba and the beginning of my experience at NYUAD because it's simply captivating…so is the thought of me studying at one of the world's top universities," he said. For a few of his classmates, it was all about getting to know their fellow freshmen through one-on-one interactions or the lineup of Marhaba events.
"Since arriving at NYUAD, my favorite experience was watching the Variety Show held in Common Ground. Although I didn't participate in an act, I was amazed by all the different talents possessed by the freshman class. The energy at the show was also great. I could also tell how much hard work was put into planning all the different Marhaba activities to create such an intense but fun week." — Aisha Alhajeri, UAE
"My favorite experience has been getting acquainted with other people, as it has helped me to know and understand other cultures from all around the globe." — Maria Fernanda Arango, El Salvador
"My favorite experience has simply been the great conversations I've had with the other incredible students that study here." — Robson Beaudry, Canada
"The Variety Show was a great experience since I was able to know more about my fellow classmates. While preparing for a group dance, I was able to interact with quite a few classmates of mine who come from different parts of the world. I was amazed at how even before even properly knowing each other, we were able to work in a team, coordinate with and understand each other, and put up a decent performance in front of everyone." — Lakshyana K.C., Nepal
"My favorite experience has been the Brief on Intercultural Intelligence by Wael Al Sayegh because he was a well-read, sensible, global citizen with a passion for sports and fitness who knew how to actively engage a younger audience. He gave us mature and realistic advice on how to evolve and learn from issues like growth orbits, culture shock, and the change cycle, which every freshman at NYUAD has gone or will yet go through." — Nandita Chaturvedi, India
In addition to reflecting on their paths to NYUAD, the Class of 2016 is looking forward to what lies in store for them this academic year. From experiences both in and outside the classroom, a few freshmen shared what they are looking forward to most.
"I'm looking forward to gradually discovering my major, which will most likely be Social Research and Public Policy. I'm also going to apply for a Social Research and Public Policy J-Term course in Manhattan this academic year, so that's also really exciting." — Aisha Alhajeri, UAE
"I'm looking forward to making this exotic and extreme location my home and learning from all the unique experiences I'm sure I will live through here." — Djordje Modrakovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
"Among many things, I am looking forward to experiencing and progressing in the Arabic language course with a thorough understanding and appreciation of this new language." — Maria Fernanda Arango, El Salvador
"I very much look forward to learning things that are completely new to me. Not only in subjects that are completely new to me, like film, but subjects that I am now looking at from a different perspective, like literature." — Robson Beaudry, Canada
Sam Ridgeway, from the UK, is looking forward to many things, including the diversity of topics he will learn about, the travel opportunities he'll have as part of his degree, and all the opportunities available at NYUAD. "I can't think of anywhere else where you're able to have discussions about how plague is addressed in world literature in the day, go cycling on the Yas Marina F1 Circuit in the evening, and then travel to Dubai to see the aquarium in the mall at the weekend," he exclaimed.
With all that's been happening since Marhaba, the Class of 2016 has a lot to write home about, regardless of how close home is. For Aisha Alhajeri, who lives in her family home just 4 kilometers from campus, spending a lot of her free time with NYUAD students instead of going home allows her to "have plenty of adventures to tell my family members about," she said. For her classmates from other countries around the globe, messages will be filled with news of day-to-day activities, life in Abu Dhabi, and the people and opportunities that make NYUAD the experience that it is. As Nandita Chaturvedi said, "I'd write home about my well being, and how there are so many people to ensure my comfort and safety. I'd write about the seniors, who care for us like elder siblings, and of freshmen with whom I connected instantaneously. I'd mention how despite such distinct cultural differences we are one big family. I'd also write home about the infinite opportunities NYUAD is giving us to grow, evolve, learn, and become better human beings."
"I will probably write home about the people I have met thus far, my experiences living with others, and my ventures into the city/encounters with Emirati culture." — Daniel Brown, Australia
"I will be writing about the amazing people I have met, people who have achieved so much and yet speak so little about the amazing talent they have. I will write about the amazing opportunities we are offered at every turn, from forming, budgeting for, and leading our own student interest groups, to dragon boating and the full schedule of professional gym classes." — Tessa Ayson, New Zealand
"I will write home a little bit of everything, including how I feel by living in a different country and describing what courses I am looking forward to in the semester." — Maria Fernanda Arango, El Salvador
"I will mostly write about my day to day activities. It's very difficult to describe the whole experience of coming to NYU Abu Dhabi." — Robson Beaudry, Canada
"As Kwame Anthony Appiah writes in "Making Conversation" [the introduction to his novel, Cosmopolitanism], quoting his father: "Remember you are citizens of the world." This is a resonating sentence that I will be sending back home and writing to my fellows about, a resounding set of words which alone can shape what heritage and legacy we ought to leave after us: a true artifact to unite, bridge, and connect societies and nations to foster world peace and intercultural understanding." — Mohamed Amine Belarbi, Morocco
"People usually travel to university dreaming of world-class professors that will facilitate their future access to jobs and employment, yet I came seeking world travelers, adventurers, visionaries, and dreamers among my peers to learn from and celebrate with," continued Mohamed Amine Belarbi. "Education is not only math and politics, it is foremost our everyday interactions with new cultures and knowledge of societies and customs. Academics are only the peels of a far greater fruit: mankind."
Theo Ntawiheba, from Rwanda, echoed Belarbi's sentiment. "The diversity of my fellow students is mind blowing. The Class of 2016 alone has students from more than 60 nationalities. We all have followed different and unique paths to be here, however, we all have the same aim: to challenge ourselves during the next four years and discover the world around us. We all seem to be driven by a strong desire to cross over geographical boundaries and spread the idea of cosmopolitanism."