Come Together

Young and fresh out of college, Firas Ashraf is part of the team at NYU Abu Dhabi creating events that bring the community together through cultural and educational programming.

Museum tours, camel beauty contests, and palm date festivals are among some of the events Firas Ashraf helped organize and coordinate at NYU Abu Dhabi.  

Passionate about engaging the NYUAD community since his undergraduate years, Ashraf had regularly worked as an intern with the Office of Social Responsibility and Community Engagement on projects. It was only natural that when a job opened up just around the time of his graduation, Ashraf seized the opportunity to apply.

Camel beauty contest in the desert is one of the programs Firas Ashraf helps organize.
Firas Ashraf, left, volunteers during his NYUAD undergraduate days for a community event on campus. Photo taken pre-COVID.
Organizing Arabic classes for the NYUAD community is one of the programs from the Office of Social Responsibility and Community Engagement.
Part of Firas Ashraf's work is to engage the NYUAD community in the culture of the UAE, such as visiting the Qasr Al Hosn festival in Abu Dhabi.

Besides cultural engagement programs where participants can learn more about the UAE, Ashraf also helps organize education programs like public speaking workshops as well as Arabic and English classes to empower continuous learning. Recently, he helped compile a digital cookbook that contained over fifty international recipes shared by the NYUAD community members. The cookbook contains recipes passed down by generations, while others were discovered while studying abroad or living outside their home countries.

Of all the events and activities Ashraf has helped with, the NYUAD Class of 2019 alumni fondly recalls a literature festival where the office managed to partner with an award-winning author to offer a creative writing class for the NYUAD community. Being able to see colleagues beyond their usual roles on campus unleash their creativity and allow themselves to be vulnerable by sharing personal life stories was very memorable for Ashraf.

Young And The City

Transitioning from being an undergraduate student into a young professional was admittedly a little intimidating at first. Leaving the secured and familiar nest of campus, Ashraf was quick to begin exploring the city on his own, taking nighttime strolls around the superblocks of his neighborhood to discover little shawarma places. Not once has Ashraf felt unsafe exploring the city.

Abu Dhabi at night

“I think as a young person, it can be a different transition,” Ashraf said. “Sometimes it may feel like there isn’t stuff for (us) to do but I’ve come to discover spaces to meet people of similar age and interests.” Cultural events, galleries, cafes, poetry nights, and more are among some of the activities in Abu Dhabi to explore, according to Ashraf. 

He also says there are opportunities to get to know fellow colleagues outside the workplace. “You just have to be a bit brave and break your comfort zone,” Ashraf commented. “Reach out... the NYUAD community is very willing to embrace newcomers.”