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Illustration by Davit Jintcharadze

Learning to Navigate the Romantic Environment at NYUAD

How do freshmen at NYUAD feel about transitioning into relationship culture on campus?

What is it like to start dating at NYU Abu Dhabi and how does the campus alter our relationship environment as we enter university? Understandably, you might think that there is no place for romance on such a small campus where practically everyone knows each other — if you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you will likely end up seeing them everyday. The library, dining hall and classrooms are all places you are unlikely to avoid someone. Does this mean that the romantic environment on campus is simply discouraged, and not even worth it to try committing to a relationship?
For Morgane Motlik, Class of 2022, relationships and the dating environment on campus in general are hard to define. “I think I share the opinion of many people that there’s a huge hookup culture on campus,” suggested Motlik. She feels that such an attitude to relationships makes it much harder to find a long-lasting relationship on campus.
At the same time, she does not exclude the possibility of finding someone worth dating, “If you find someone who is on the same page as you, it can result in a great relationship.”
Indeed, hookup culture is prevalent on campus. Many students come from cultures where relationships are viewed differently from the Western context. Consequently, many students want to expose themselves to things they have not previously experienced. At times it is good to try out new experiences, but being exposed to such freedom can often result in difficulties. At the end of the day, different people have different perspectives on relationships and often it is tricky to balance your views with the social expectations of the environment around you.
Everyone has different experiences regarding dating on campus and, for some, these are pleasant. While others may experience painful breakups and try to take different paths on campus as a result, there are also those who have had a positive history of dating. The environment on campus is rather unique, and to get a better picture of it we should consider how first years adjust.
Andrijana Pejchinovska, Class of 2022, was already in a relationship for a year before coming to NYUAD. She and her boyfriend were lucky enough to be accepted together and continue their relationship on campus. However, as Pejchinovska told us, the relationship environment on campus is starkly different from that of Macedonia. She admitted that it was definitely a struggle, saying that their biggest challenge was finding quality time with each other.
“We were so busy in the beginning of the semester, with me not knowing how to read academic texts and my boyfriend struggling with math examinations,” commented Pejchinovska.
When asked about the attitude of people towards her relationship, Pejchinovska said that she tries to be less affectionate publicly. “Back home, dating is very accepted — here, on the other hand, we meet a lot of new people who are surprised to hear that we are a couple.” They limit themselves publicly because she understands that many people on campus come from cultures where public relationship is not as common.
But what is it that makes a relationship on campus successful? For Pejchinovska, it is definitely friendship. “My relationship started with friendship and still we are best friends, not just a boyfriend and girlfriend,” she admitted. At the same time, she strongly believes that relationships do not define you as a person, and friendships are just as important as romantic relationships. “That being said, I hope you asked your crush out on Wednesday.”
Finally, while campus alters our way of looking at other people and relationships with them, it is we who make the final decision. Certainly, the environment here can affect our choices as first year students, but our own preferences and actions do not come exclusively from the environment — they are also rooted deep within ourselves.
Davit Jintcharadze is a staff writer. Email him at
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