“What if I went to a college outside the US?”

Emma Kay Tocci is a first generation college graduate who started her journey to NYU Abu Dhabi in an unusual place… Greece.

Film and New Media major Emma Kay Tocci never thought she would be spending four years of college outside of the United States because of a trip to Greece.

Winning a film competition had brought 17-year old Tocci to Athens, which was incidentally in the midst of the country’s 2015 austerity vote. Confused, Tocci had no idea what was happening on the ground. It struck her then just how much of the world she did not know.

Seeing history happen around me made me realise how ignorant I was about the world.

Emma Kay Tocci, Class of 2020

Time to Pick a College

That trip got her thinking of ways she could understand more about the world that she lives in. Tocci thought, “What if I went to a college outside the US?”

She set to work with her counsellor on exploring the idea of applying to NYU Abu Dhabi — an already familiar name in her high school in Colorado. She retook her ACT examinations, got a better score, and kick started her application journey.

My Sister, The Trailblazer

Tocci’s sister is two years older and was the first in their immediate family to graduate college. “My sister has always allowed me to look up to her. She will always let me witness her mistakes so that I can learn from them,” Tocci explained. “My parents never went to college, so they don’t understand what it’s like to have student loans, to move away from home, and to attend university,” she added.

This is For You, Freshmen

In case you thought Tocci’s journey was all smooth sailing, it wasn’t. Moving to the Middle East for college was an incredibly hard adjustment. So much so that she had considered transferring out many times. But the mission of NYUAD and what she could learn from this place kept her going — and now looking back, Tocci is glad she had held on. 

College is going to be a lot of things, but easy is not going to be one of them. That said, it is going to be worth it.

Emma Kay Tocci, Class of 2020

Four years at NYUAD have also taught Tocci this: “Anyone can truly find their place here (at NYUAD) as there is no one type of person that belongs here.”

Read: 320 students representing 76 nationalities join NYUAD Class of 2020

Life After Graduation

“When I first arrived as a first year, graduation seemed so far off,” Tocci said. Now, it is a bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to the community she is so fond of, and embarking on a new path soon.

Tocci’s mom advised that her next step should not be focused on what she wants to be, instead focusing on what she wants to learn. Taking that advice to heart, Tocci is planning to go to a graduate school in Korea and to learn Korean.

Tocci has always regretted never mastering a second language growing up — a contrast she said, to a good majority of students at NYUAD who can speak, on average, two to three languages.

Even though Tocci’s parents have never left the US, they are supportive and excited for their daughter. “I have their trust to make my own decisions, and it fills me with confidence,” Tocci said.