How a Diverse Campus Becomes an Inclusive Community

Students along the High Line.

I must admit, one of the main draws that led me to NYU Abu Dhabi was the opportunity to study alongside students from every corner of the globe. The chance to learn firsthand about the people, nations and cultures that constitute the countries of the world and that are condensed into one campus was enough to convince me to pack my bags for four years in the Emirates.

As a newly-minted member of the NYUAD community, I hope to take full advantage of the possibilities for growth offered through new friendships with fellow freshmen and upperclassmen.

Despite many difficult names to pronounce, some unheard-of countries, and a couple unintentional insults, I navigated my way through Marhaba Week along with the rest of ‘2019’; however, with the end of orientation also came an end to the unchallenged conversations – no longer did it seem appropriate to approach strangers and simply say, “Tell me about yourself!”

Perhaps a desire for spontaneous knowledge acquisition during orientation week is what piqued my interest in a new four-part training program called Intercultural Core Competence. ICC is a customized curriculum designed by the Office of Intercultural Education & Spiritual Life which aims to help participants develop a more sophisticated understanding of the diversity on campus and beyond. The series is intended to encourage students to learn about their own cultural identity and explore how our own individuality applies to contexts inside and outside of our community.

Diversity does not necessarily ensure inclusion. We must make individual efforts to actively engage with others.

Alexander Leigh MacKay, Class of 2019

I signed up for the program and soon after began the first session. Upon entering the room, I recognized 12 other first-year students, each with a unique background, perspective and story to share. We worked together on the first module to frame ourselves as individuals through an examination of self, setting and situation; we discussed the intercultural development continuum and our placements upon it; and analyzed critical incidents – including those experienced in our own community. After leaving the session and returning to regular classes, I felt as though this shared experience with my peers was extremely worthwhile and particularly fulfilling.

I am a new member of the community here at NYUAD and believe the diversity we have on campus is one of the greatest privileges of studying here. However, I have also learned that diversity does not necessarily ensure inclusion. With acknowledgement to this, in order to develop the skills and knowledge to be competent citizens of our intercultural community, we must make individual efforts to actively engage with others.