I was a 16-year-old high school student when I first got involved with the Girl’s Education Network (GEN). My amazing English teacher had always provided me with opportunities that would guide me to a better future — one of those opportunities was enrolling me in GEN, a leadership workshop held at NYU Abu Dhabi for girls in middle school and high school.
During those Saturday sessions, I met with facilitators and NYUAD students and saw how empowering, smart, inspiring, and benevolent they were. Back then, I didn’t think I possessed any of those characteristics but I recall wanting to be just like them.
It was during these GEN workshops that I felt NYUAD’s strong sense of community and saw the many opportunities offered to students. This confirmed my decision to apply to NYUAD.
Fast forward to 2020. Now in my final year at NYUAD, I volunteered for the very first time as a lead facilitator for GEN. Despite the program taking place virtually, it was still a rewarding and positive experience. Not only did I get to meet with students participating from other emirates, there were also participants from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Before concluding my last GEN workshop, I took advantage of one of the many helpful resources available at NYUAD and spoke to a wellness counselor. Our conversation brought me back to my 16-year-old self who thought that she wasn’t able to reach for her dreams or able to inspire others.
I was emotional during the graduation of this semester’s GEN participants when the young women described the facilitators with encouraging and positive words. I realized my dream of empowering and encouraging students had finally come true. I have come full circle: being empowered as a GEN participant, and now being able to give back to the community by becoming a GEN facilitator.
The Girls' Education Network (GEN) is a leadership development program that invites young girls in Abu Dhabi to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves in order to mindfully engage with the world around them. GEN was founded by two NYU Abu Dhabi students and Dalai Lama Fellows, Ritu Muralidharan and Sofia Gomez-Doyle in partnership with the Office of Community Outreach.