Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui
Every NYU Abu Dhabi student stares into the mirror for 10 minutes in the morning before going to their nine a.m. lecture, wondering, "What am I going to wear?" The struggle of not knowing what is appropriate to wear on this campus is a difficult task for most students, although it may become easier as one gets older and starts being satisfied with simply wearing pajamas to the dining hall every day.
The most important tip for how to dress on campus is to wear whatever makes you feel like yourself, while keeping in mind the UAE’s cultural norms.
Abu Dhabi is considered conservative when it comes to dress codes. However, it is also fairly tolerant given its diverse population and mix of many cultures. Before arriving on campus, students visiting for Candidate Weekend at NYUAD are told exactly that, and later as students they are reminded to respect the culture of the UAE by dressing modestly, even if there is no strictly enforced dress code.
Although many freshmen mean to respect the culture of the UAE when they join NYUAD, they may feel confused during their first week of classes when everything from abayas to mini-skirts stroll across campus. Later in the year, some students tend to move further away from their previous conception of acceptable dress codes in the UAE. Though this fact seems unproblematic to many, I believe that wearing excessively revealing clothing is actually quite offensive, given the norms and expectations of the UAE.
This, however, is one of the most common struggles NYUAD students face: Something you do may seem completely normal to you and to other members of your cultural group, but to others it may seem outrageous. Students then face the burdensome dilemma of deciding how to cope with this expectational divide. While this U.S. American university campus offers students complete freedom in their choice of attire, choosing to adhere to cultural norms of the UAE should be expected.
By choosing to enroll at this university, students are agreeing to fit themselves into the expectations of Abu Dhabi. This agreement comes with following the UAE’s laws, respecting its people and valuing its cultures and traditions. This campus should be no exception. Students should try their best to respect the UAE culture on campus as they interact with friends and colleagues. Dressing modestly is not an idea newly introduced by NYUAD, it is a debate present in many different schools, universities, and workplaces around the world.
One of the most important qualities of this university is that it immerses its students in the culture of the UAE. To successfully immerse ourselves in that culture, we should at least abide by the level of respect our host country is expecting of us. By dressing modestly on campus, we are showing courtesy to the UAE and its people. It is hard to change the way you dress based on where you live, but behaving in a way that is different from what you are used to back home in itself is part of your educational journey here at NYUAD, and by doing so, you will be able to adapt to any place you live in in the future.
Add one minute of your time to your daily dressing dilemma and take that minute to think about whether what you’re picking out is the right outfit for you, for the campus and for the country you’re living in.
Malak Yasser is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]