It's impossible not to feel inspired by students who come to NYU Abu Dhabi from all over the world to pursue their dreams. It only takes a few minutes of conversation with our students to realize why they are so special. They see the world differently, they volunteer, participate in social and environmental causes, and engage in dialogue about important global issues.
Mostly, what sets NYUAD students apart is their character. It's all those things about a person's identity that can't be taught. These seven students are representative of NYUAD's newest alumni, a group of 270 students from more than 75 countries. While each of their stories are unique, they have created an unbreakable connection at NYUAD by pursuing a common purpose - to be ethical, productive, global citizens.
Daniel Obaji is used to being the youngest student in class but admits it hasn’t always been easy. In Nigeria, Daniel started school early because “my mom was going to nursing school … so when my eldest sister went to school they made me tag along. I’ve always been in the same class as people older than I was.”
Daniel was just 14 when he got into NYU Abu Dhabi and became well known on campus because of his age. At first, “having that image of me was difficult to deal with … to come across as being anything more than just the youngest person on campus.”
But the next four years in Abu Dhabi would lead Daniel to a much more meaningful identity. He’s articulate, comfortable talking to people about his unique life experience, an exceptional biology student, and a friend to many.
“I’ve got a lot of support from my family, they have so much hope and faith in me.” And this is just the beginning for Daniel. This summer he turns 19 and will pack his bags for NYU New York to begin studying for his PhD in biology.
Rabiya Imran is driven by a desire to be different from everyone else. “I’m the first person in my family to go to college .. the first woman to go abroad alone to study. I didn’t want to do what everyone around me was doing back home, getting married and having kids,” she says.
Feeling like she had a lot to prove, Rabiya pushed herself at NYU Abu Dhabi, sometimes too hard. She kept a packed class schedule, did research, worked multiple internships, and lived as a resident advisor - all at the same time. Incomparable ambition and will to succeed has given Rabiya an unapologetic sense of self-confidence, and readiness to take on the world.
“I’ve come really far. I think what kept driving me is the idea that I’m so lucky to have this. There are so many people who didn’t have the chance, so knowing I had this opportunity, I had to avail everything that I got.”
Jude Alhajeri would like to dedicate her graduation to a very important and determined seven-year-old boy. “My youngest brother … he has autism and down syndrome so he’s been my driving force,” she says. “He’s the reason I came to NYU Abu Dhabi and studied psychology. I wanted to make a difference."
Jude is resolute yet enthusiastic about changing the way people think about special needs. She volunteers regularly with children in Abu Dhabi and earned a scholarship to continue her studies at at University College London. “It might not be on a great scale .. but just knowing I contributed something positive ... making people more aware is a good step toward change.”
Jagan Narayanan Subramanian
Jagan Narayanan Subramanian began his journey into an unconventional double major the moment he realized his passion for both architecture and art. “I put engineering and theater together … to prove that architecture is as important to performance as acting. It was interesting to be in acting classes and have professors tell you not to measure distances between places,” he recalls with laughter.
“Liberal arts education has given me a taste of what you can do if you are willing to learn something new,” says Jagan, who’s pursuing a startup opportunity after graduation.
Yana Dmytrivna Chala
One day early in her second year, Yana Dmytrivna Chala looked around and noticed something she didn’t like. “I was the only girl on track in computer science because a lot of girls weren’t sure. I knew there were fewer women in sciences generally,” she says, “but it never really struck me that it was a problem.”
At NYU Abu Dhabi, Yana became actively involved in the growing movement for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. She joined various student initiatives, volunteered as a website developer, ran a conference for high school students, and worked two internships at Google. A lot of female classmates returned to computer science after exploring other options, “which is amazing,” she says.
Encouraging young girls and women to break stereotypes is something Yana wants to do throughout her career. “I realized I’m really passionate about education.” After graduation, Yana starts a full-time job at Google in London.
Jack Delano is what you might call a humble pioneer. He is the first NYU Abu Dhabi student to do his senior Capstone research solely in legal studies, a new major at the University. “It’s definitely a little scary not having a path to follow, but it’s exciting to be a trailblazer … to pave the way for it. I think the major is only going to get more and more interesting and appealing for the students here.”
Coming from the spread-out state of Colorado, Jack knows a thing or two about taking the road less traveled. Supportive professors and lasting friendships, he says, helped guide him from freshman to final destination. “All of the friends I’ve made in these past four years have been instrumental to my growth. Being able to experience new things together … having that kind of synthesis. I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else, at any other university.”
For many NYU Abu Dhabi students, the hardest part of university isn’t getting good grades or figuring out life after graduation. It’s being away from family and loved ones for so long.
Marika Niko, a theater major interested in pursuing costume design and choreography, is used to being independent because she grew up all over the world, moving from Bangkok to London, Japan, and the Netherlands.
But the long road to Commencement has stirred up unexpected emotions, and a special message to her parents: “Thank you so much for unleashing me and letting me do what I wanted to do. You never had expectations or put pressure on me. Even though I’ve been away, I still missed you a lot.”