Examining change in Sama Tower dynamics

Three years ago, when the current NYU Abu Dhabi senior class first arrived as the inaugural freshman generation, things were very different than they ...

Aug 31, 2013

Three years ago, when the current NYU Abu Dhabi senior class first arrived as the inaugural freshman generation, things were very different than they are for the freshman class of 2017.
There were no upperclassmen; only freshmen. Sama Tower was not as developed; neither the dining hall nor the gym were completed. Senior Alejandra Pinto recalled how students would enter the dining hall from the back entrance, at a time when the kitchens were incomplete, and how students would access their sports facilities through the Armed Officers Club.
Even the neighborhoods around Sama and the Downtown Campus have changed over the past couple years, Pinto said, with new buildings seemingly popping up out of nowhere and other businesses closing. Sama, which was once one of the tallest buildings, is now one of many on the city’s skyline.
Returning to Abu Dhabi after a semester or two of studying abroad emphasizes the changes. In such a newly established campus, where programs are still being initiated and issues ironed out, changes happen rapidly as the university expands.
“When I came back from my spring semester in Florence, the first time, there were a lot of things that were different,” said Pinto. “Student government did a lot in our community while I was away … they implemented a lot of stuff so when I came back, it was weird to keep track of everything.”
This semester marks an important step in the NYUAD community because it is the first time the university has a complete student body with four graduating classes. The influx of new students also brings its own developments in the community. For example, seniors who spent an entire year away have returned to find the student population more than doubled, and having met neither the freshmen nor the sophomores.
Senior Anthony Spalvieri–Kruse spent his junior year abroad in New York and described how much smaller the community was when he was a freshman.
“You had the same 150 people to hang out with… after the first semester, you met everyone there was to meet,” Spalvieri–Kruse said. “I think now there are enough people to keep you socially active throughout the year.“
“It’s nice, I like having people to meet,” Spalvieri–Kruse added. “I like that everyone doesn’t know each other … equally.”
Pinto, who spent two spring semesters studying abroad, had to reintegrate into the community several times.
“I think the best way to integrate is when you join [Student Interest Groups],” Pinto said. “That’s how you best talk to people and work with people.”
Senior Manuel Nivia, who spent only one semester away last spring, highlighted the difficulties that can arise from studying abroad for the entire year.
“I think that if you really want to participate or collaborate across the classes, it becomes more difficult if you go abroad for a whole year,” Nivia said. “In my case, I was here in the fall so I know the sophomores. It’s basically coming back after a semester, seeing some changes and trying to readapt to whatever has happened.”
For many seniors, to return after study abroad is to enter into a new community.
“I think people change, relationships change, the way things work change,” Nivia added. “You can either fight against it or adapt and support and learn.”
Clare Hennig is features editor. Email her at 
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