Illustration by Joaquín Kunkel

Transient Nature of the NYUAD Community

Leaving NYUAD for a semester abroad might be difficult but reintegrating is a new opportunity.

NYU Abu Dhabi provides a plethora of study away opportunities for its students that is unparalleled by other universities of its caliber. It is exciting to envision a semester here and other one there, a January Term close to Abu Dhabi followed by one far away, or summer internships at home and anywhere else you can imagine. As NYUAD students, we come to realize at some point that there are certain things that we lose in leaving. However, having to readjust to life on Saadiyat Island often seems unappealing after one or two semesters away. Instead, we should be able to reconnect with campus life with fresh perspectives and a keen eye to make improvements. But how do we preserve the continuity of the NYUAD spirit and engage more with campus life while studying away?
As a junior studied in Florence and now studies in New York, I have been blessed with the rare opportunity to meaningfully interact with other people outside of my own circle of friends, which continues to broadens my comprehension, perception and appreciation of the world. The experience was beyond my wildest dreams, but in the rush and the excitement of these moments I often say to myself, "I wish my old friends were also here with me." However, I am always comforted by the idea that everything happens for a reason. It’s through studying away that I learned more about myself and the people that I really care about. These semesters abroad have proven to me that the transient nature of NYUAD, although inevitable, does not have the power to break bonds and erase the memories unless you allow it to.
However, the transient nature of NYUAD comes with a paradox: while it is a truly sad twist of fate that separates friends from one another, it is a necessary and rewarding trade-off. It reinforces the fact that there are things we gain and lose in leaving. It is up to us cope with it, grow stronger relationships with people that we leave behind and make new friends in the places we are traveling to. I personally found it very difficult to leave NYUAD for my first semester abroad because of all the lovely people I was going to leave behind for several months. It was a heart-wrenching experience. But I was always comforted by the idea that my old friends would still be good friends and that I could still stay in touch with them. Sometimes, I find necessary to Skype with friends back in Abu Dhabi or get updated on the latest news on campus. Hard as it may be to coordinate meetings across time zones, I find this to be crucial in maintaining my friendships.
Overall, I think there should be a stronger sense of obligation to keep in touch with your activities from abroad, such as a system of regular Skype check-ins with SIG leaders and mentors. This would hold everyone accountable and encourage SIG members to support one another even across the Global Network University. While I don’t have a definite solution to how communication across the GNU should be sustained, I think it’s important to shift away from feeling completely disconnected from university life and to try to stay updated on Saadiyat life as much as possible.
When the realization hits that your friendships won’t last forever, just because your friends won’t coordinate their semester abroad with yours, it is important to remind yourself that this is the inherent nature of the NYUAD community. You will adapt to traveling the world, fending for yourselves and growing as individuals. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, as you will understand that the privilege of studying away won’t last forever. Eventually, we will all come back to a familiar place, where we used to work, live and hang out with friends.
Although the transient nature of NYUAD is unavoidable, it shouldn't stop you from molding your own legacy. It shouldn't stop any NYUAD student from leaving bits and pieces of themselves in the communities they integrate with. Only by viewing our role as a continuity rather than an interruption of the commitments that we have at NYUAD will we be able to create a meaningful legacy.
Kirk Mariano is a contributing writer. Email him at
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