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Illustration by Davit Jintcharadze

FYD: Artificial, Time Consuming, Ineffective

FYD fails to fulfill its goals as a program for first-year integration and support, and instead feels like a forced and uncomfortable waste of time.

First Year Dialogue is a program facilitated by the Office of First Year Experience at NYU Abu Dhabi, designed to help first-years transition into university life. With support from upperclassmen and staff facilitators, students are expected to support each other and engage in dialogue regarding various topics, such as homesickness and dealing with culture shock. However, considering that our student body consists of people with different social needs and opinions, it is necessary to investigate the real effects of FYD. While its goal may be to help students integrate, FYD as it is now is not only artificial and time-consuming, but also ineffective.
Some people see FYD as a great way to introduce first-years to life in university and as a kind of safety net for incoming students. While it does indeed help first-years get to know their peers, it is too forced and artificial. There are freshmen who like the idea behind this initiative, but many are skeptical. Some feel uncomfortable sharing their experiences and emotions during FYD sessions, especially with staff on board. Many members of the student body at NYUAD come from regions where teachers are placed on a pedestal. Those of us from these places are used to being extremely formal with figures of authority, and sharing our personal issues with them can feel very uncomfortable.
Additionally, the conversations in FYD are tailored such that they focus on student’s struggles, which they may not feel comfortable talking about with people they’ve just met. Most of the time, the issue is not that we are not keen on expressing ourselves, but rather the fact that we are not familiar enough with people in our group to share what’s on our minds. At the same time, the group openly sharing its struggles puts pressure on everyone else to share their personal feelings and experiences. Not everyone is comfortable opening up to a group of people, especially not within the first few interactions. Furthermore, listening to what everyone else is going through makes one feel responsible for them, which to many may feel an additional burden when they are trying to address their own issues.
Most of the sessions felt artificial, with the facilitator reading off a printed script, trying to make each of us open up about our issues for five minutes each Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. This leads to us directly diving into our issues with minimum or no small talk to transition into the conversation and doesn’t leave room for natural conversation.
So, what is the problem with assigning people to groups and expecting them to open up about their university experience? Certainly, the idea of group therapy or a group brave space is not unique to NYUAD. It is in fact practiced widely and successfully in many places around the world. However, one aspect that makes it problematic here is the fact that FYD sessions are mandatory. We are expected to participate even if we don’t necessarily feel like sharing our thoughts in such a restrictive and artificial environment.
Additionally, the odd timings for these mandatory meetings make them even more of a burden, especially during weekdays, when students could be swamped with work.
So, how do we make FYD beneficial? Making these sessions optional, at least after Marhaba, is one solution. That way, those who are genuinely interested in group meetings will likely benefit the most. If you’re surrounded by people who show voluntary interest in FYD, the outcome will be more positive. At the same time, people who do not feel like sharing their experiences during group sessions will make better use of their time — by searching for other, more individualized resources, for instance. Once people are not forced into the meetings, FYD may feel more genuine.
Another component of FYD that should be reconsidered is the group meeting environment. The off-campus gatherings, which were optional, felt much more natural. Talking beyond problems assigned on paper and communicating outside of the forced campus environment, we had a better chance to get to know each other through candid conversations.
When forming a new friendship, we tend to form connections with people who we feel can genuinely understand and listen to us. Friendships are a personal decision — we choose who to befriend and who to avoid. But this agency is taken away in FYD: a first-year is assigned to a random group with a random facilitator. When a connection is artificially arranged by someone else in advance, not everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts.
NYUAD is a small university. Within just a few months of being here, many freshman have made meaningful connections with some peers while running into trouble with others. Conflicts are only natural — you cannot avoid them in real life. If you are unlucky enough to be in the same FYD group with a person you would normally try not to hang out with, you are left with little choice. There is no way to place everyone into FYD groups according to their own preferences and that might be a good reason to ask if we need FYD at all.
Ultimately, some of us do make friendships during the sessions. Many facilitators are friendly and helpful peers that may provide invaluable advice about university life. Yet most of us do not hang out with or talk to people who are in the same FYD group as us. If we, as first year students, experience difficulties during our first year — and it is only natural that we will — there are many alternative resources available on campus. Some of them, such as REACH or personal counselling sessions, are far more individualized and effective. Even Sustained Dialogue is basically an optional version of FYD, where students gather in a group to have meaningful conversations about personal issues or problems on campus.
Unlike FYD, such sessions provide real safe spaces and push for more honest expression of opinions. It’s understandable that sharing your thoughts with others can be also desirable, but if you’d like to share something with a community, you must be able to choose who you want to trust.
Aayusha Shreshta and Davit Jintcharadze are staff writer. Email them at
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