Photo by The Gazelle
NYU Abu Dhabi opened its doors to students in 2010 as a university with an uncertain future. In the years that followed, more and more students took a leap of faith to commit their education to a relatively new institution. With each passing year, NYUAD’s students have shown a joy for learning across disciplines, insatiable curiosity about the world around them and, perhaps most importantly, a desire to build a strong sense of community through a series of traditions that make this place home.
Some of the earliest traditions at NYUAD were its annual cultural nights such as the Latino and Afro-Caribbean night.
“I am quite happy that there is an ongoing interest in Africa and diaspora-related issues among students and seeing it become a tradition makes me quite happy, because people from different backgrounds can come together and celebrate unanimously,” said Maya Adams, Class of 2018 and the events manager for Africa Global, a Student Interest Group on campus.
Taking inspiration from such cultural events, the Pakistani Student Association wanted to showcase an aspect of their home as well and thus came the idea of a mock wedding.
“We were just brainstorming ideas for new events. In the past all we had were small scale events like movie nights. Weddings are a really big deal in Pakistan and NYU in New York also had an annual mock wedding with a bride and a groom from NYU and Columbia, so we drew inspiration from that,” said Safa Kashaf, Class of 2018 and the PSA President.
Kashaf mentioned that everyone should have a chance to attend a Pakistani wedding in their lives, whether real or fake.
“The event is [popular amongst] Pakistani students on campus because it's a small taste of home and an experience that allows us to bond with our Pakistani family here at NYUAD. Both in my time as President and even just as a member of the broader NYUAD community I've made a lot of new friends and strengthened a lot of old relationships through planning and executing the mock wedding,” said Kashaf.
Traditions at NYUAD are not limited to just cultural ones. They extend to the realms of sports and arts. For instance, Interclassico is planned and executed by the Athletics Department wherein the upperclassmen play against the underclassmen in a game of football.
Peter Dicce, Director of Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation, shared his journey in building the football community.
“Every single day we get up and do something no one else in the region does. When I came here, they told us, Put the kids in the league, but what league? There were no such opportunities in the region. Our goal is to be the model athletics university in the region, contributing to the NYUAD sense of identify,” said Dicce.
He also elaborated on the importance of traditions manifested through sports, calling Interclassico a “celebration and a goodbye, all wrapped in one.”
“It’s wonderful to see that community grow bigger as we’ve now created an entire league. We built this team and we hope to keep building this community. Each one of you is so special and we want you to know it’s not about what happens on the field, we want you to know our doors are always open and that’s why we like to have such sports traditions,” added Dicce.
The Office of Residential Education Department has also established many of its own campus traditions. For the last few years, they have organized Splash Bash — a day of fun in the sun where students can enjoy delicious food, poolside views and inflatables. With each passing year, this event has become a day students look forward to to kick-start their semesters. In addition, Res Ed has planned the Midnight Breakfast, a night where students can enjoy shawarmas, KFC and waffles while taking a break from their studies.
The university has also created some traditions with regards to the Abu Dhabi community. The NYUAD Arts Center has brought to campus the Middle East’s longest running poetry and open mic night, Rooftop Rhythms. This platform allows students and non-students alike to infuse the culture of poetry with some fresh energy.
“I was really nervous to perform at my first show but the great thing about Rooftop [Rhythms] is that it's not just a show, ... it sort of becomes a family. Every time you come back you feel closer as a group,” said Laurence Lewars, Class of 2020.
A combination of sports, arts and cultural traditions have definitely built a legacy for the future classes at NYUAD and fostered a sense of community in the current student body. However, transience continues to permeate all aspects of college life at NYUAD. While considering campus traditions, it is sometimes forgotten that there was a life before Saadiyat and not many know how some traditions truly came to be.
Jad Mahmoud, Class of 2016, shared one of the very first NYUAD traditions that arose with the transition to the new campus in the midst of new policies.
“It almost felt like the NYUAD identity that we had tailored to fit a quirky student body was slowly buckling under administrative policies and students were often left in the dark,” said Mahmoud.
He stressed that his class wanted to celebrate graduation and reclaim the identity they once had as well as pass it to the lower classes by starting a tradition: The March. He explains that it started out with a couple friends hanging out on the highline and before they knew it, 50 of them from the Class of 2016 gathered with their gowns and caps on ready to march like they would on graduation day.
On traditions and their importance, no one said it better than Mahmoud: “At the end of the march a flag was passed to Muhammad Usman, Class of 2017, to pass on the tradition to his class the year after. It felt good to celebrate and be celebrated. I just hope it’ll live on to give the new classes a taste of our NYUAD.”
Nimrah Khanyari is Deputy Features Editor. Email her at [email protected]