Inter-class bonding important for community building

A week ago, students returning to Abu Dhabi found cozy Sama Tower the most crowded it has ever been and ever will be as far as NYUAD is concerned. Even ...

Aug 31, 2013

A week ago, students returning to Abu Dhabi found cozy Sama Tower the most crowded it has ever been and ever will be as far as NYUAD is concerned. Even with the majority of the junior class studying abroad, the elevators seem to groan under the weight of so many bright young minds, while the dining hall lines stretch infinitely. For returning seniors, many of whom have been away for an entire year, it can be particularly overwhelming; some key familiar faces are missing, while over half the people crowding around us are completely new. Some of us get asked if we’re professors; others if we’re freshmen.
With so many new people to navigate, it can be tempting to not bother at all. It’s difficult, after all, to remember the name of everyone who introduces themselves in the elevator. There are so many people to say hi to that we haven’t seen in a year or more. It takes a concerted effort to say hi to new people as well, who seem to have their own friend groups already in place.
For these reasons, the senior class has a reputation for being a little standoffish and difficult to get to know. This speaks of deeper criticisms; that we can be arrogant, or egotistical, or condescending. We lecture underclassmen on Facebook — sometimes good-naturedly, other times less so. We occasionally bark at freshmen in the elevator when they make our trips up to the top floors a little longer. We’ve also been known to complain that the years below us aren’t as interesting, and don’t contain as many so-called personalities. We spent the first year here alone. We’re the trail-blazers, the first chosen few, and we can’t seem to forget that.
It’s that first lonely year that has, in many ways, made us who we are. Every NYUAD student experiences this sudden onslaught of people telling us that we’re academically at the top, that we’ve embarked on this grand adventure; in many ways that can be inspiring. But it can also be ego-inflating, especially for those of us who spent our first year in a crucible of compliments along with 150 of our closest friends. Our personalities stick out to each other because we had an entire year to get to know each other intimately, before other students came and began to invade our space and share our elevators; they stick out to others because we are often arrogant and egotistical. We are arrogant because we’ve been taught to be, because we believe our own hype and because we needed to be. The first class needed a superfluity of students who believed in themselves so securely so that we wouldn’t be scared to fly halfway around the world to see an oasis, which for all we knew at the time, may well have been a mirage.
Still, we could take lessons from the classes below us. We could relax a little more, and worry less about MCATs, G.R.E.s and capstones. We could be there to guide the underclassmen by first and foremost remembering the mistakes we made in their position, which were the same — if not sometimes worse — than what we see now. The classes below us might not have had to deal with the pressures of being first, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t dealt with nearly equivalent pressures, and it certainly doesn’t mean they have nothing new to bring to the table and nothing to teach us.
Our study abroad program, while providing immeasurable opportunities, means that we’re missing the majority of our junior class, who might otherwise be the link between underclassmen and seniors; in their absence, we’ll need to forge those links ourselves. As the semester progresses, classes will help, especially as one unintended consequence of not making certain required courses available earlier is that many seniors find themselves in classes with underclassmen. The gradual start-up of Student Interest Groups will also help us to meet new friends with like-minded interests. Seniors will find, if they look closely enough, that underclassmen have just as much so-called personalities as we do, it’s just less on display.
For those of us who’ve been away for a year and who’ve said good-bye, perhaps permanently to progressive sets of friends, we might not want to invest the emotion necessary to get to know 300 new people we’ll have to say goodbye to in a year. But one of the greatest things about our school is that, while its crucible-like nature can cause our tempers and egos to flare, it also means our friendships are forged in steel. We might leave, but these will be the friendships most worth hanging on to, if we can only expend the effort to make them.
Carmen Germaine is a contributing writer. Email her at
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