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Graphic by Shenuka Corea

On Taking it All In

One senior’s final thoughts on the magic of NYUAD.

May 12, 2019

Two months before graduation, amid the pile of capstone books and coffee mugs, a friend of mine sent me an article by Marina Keegan entitled, The Opposite of Loneliness.
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.”
I stopped reading immediately. It wasn’t because of some unbecoming hatred for Yale, but rather due to the shock that came from reading the perfect description of what I had found at NYU Abu Dhabi over the past four years. I have been searching for this exact description across campuses, over continents and through courses, and I couldn’t have said it any better.
I have since finished reading Keegan’s piece and sat with it for several days. What Keegan found at Yale, I have found at NYUAD. There is something beyond the tall palms, the classes and the midterms. Something transcendent that holds this place together. I am afraid of losing this something as I walk out with my purple robe and cap in a few days time. I know my story isn’t everyone’s story of this place, but I also know that for each and every one one of us, underclassmen to alumni, NYUAD has been unforgettable.
Sadly, Keegan’s story does not have a happy ending. Three days after her graduation, she passed away in a car accident. This is not meant to trivialize her death, but rather to pay tribute to some of the final thoughts she put down on paper; the thoughts that have captured what I thought couldn’t be expressed when I was a freshman. Even though we never met and I can only imagine what she would have to say about NYUAD, I’d like to think she’s happy knowing how her words impacted me during this time of transition.
Keegan tells a story about what we should remember and what we have to look forward to. Beyond the academic rigor and turbulent social life, there is something about university life, and something about this university in particular, that we should remember to appreciate: each other.
And that is how, halfway across the world and seven years after its original publishing, Keegan’s article struck me deeply as I was walking back on our own Highline.
Some of you may not remember, but the quintessential NYUAD song, performed each Marhaba week in the RealAD cast, used to be Learn to Love and Live which was eventually replaced by the now traditional tune, We Are Not Strangers. I wasn’t too upset by this change as both songs ring true, but perhaps I have a nostalgic connection to the former. In Learn to Love and Live, one part of the song stands out in particular:
Now is where our lives begin,
Stop and take it all in.
If there are things that you’ve lost
There’s things we can win
Stop and take it all in
The first time the famed song stuck a chord in me was the second semester of my freshman year. I spent a bustling Thursday rushing to class, attending Student Interest Group events and was completely overloaded with commitments that my senior self now chuckles at. I was running back across the palms when I suddenly tripped and fell flat on my face. After the physical pain and mental anguish at my lack of time management skills subsided, I calmed down and thought to myself, ‘Alright, just make it home and move on from there.’
Home? I looked around at the gigantic walls dimly lit by the convenience store and Marketplace. This giant university filled to the brim with people I loved and cared about, was home? I sat on the bench for a good five minutes that night pondering what the next three years would look like in this strange oasis in the desert.
I had to stop and take it all in.
Three years later I have discovered the opposite of loneliness here on Saadiyat. Through all the 4 a.m. midterm grinds, countless Doubleshot Ice Shakens at the Library Cafe and hastily planned trips to the Republic of Georgia, I tried my best to be grateful for this inconceivable experience — this thing that I can’t put down for you in any article. It is that giddy feeling you get after hearing John Sexton’s powerful winding speeches, or that surreal sense of belonging after you walk out of your fourth and final RealAD Show, or when you’re down and out on the Highline and someone comes to tell you that everything is going to be okay.
As Coach Dicce, recently told the graduating Class of 2019, ‘ won’t be hugging your paper degree five years down the line… it will be those people that walk into your door and greet you with a smile.’ So when the going gets tough — and trust me it will — sometimes all it takes is for you to stop and take it all in.
So, Class of 2019, let’s roll out of this place with a smile. Underclassmen, good luck with everything. Alumni, I hope to meet you somewhere around the world. Thank you for everything and I hope, even just for one last time, we can stop and take it all in.
Taj Chapman is Feature Editor. Email him at
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