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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

Screw Up Night

On Dec. 4, the Health and Wellness Committee hosted its first Screw Up Night, an event dedicated to normalizing failure in the NYU Abu Dhabi community.

Dec 7, 2019

On Dec. 4, the Student Health Advisory Committee hosted its first Screw Up Night, an event dedicated to normalizing failure in the NYU Abu Dhabi community. The event took place outdoors in the Amphitheater and consisted of six members of the NYUAD community talking about their lived experiences with failures as well as what they learned from them.
“The inspiration of Screw up Night was to normalize failure in our community, because we all come from such high achieving backgrounds, and many of us don't feel comfortable sharing our experiences of failure with others,” said Ian McBain, Class of 2022 and chair of the Health and Wellness Committee. “The Health and Wellness Committee is trying to spread more awareness about mental health, and the resources that we have available for students, such as counseling, REACH, the wellness exchange and specialized events like this.”
Three staff members told stories of their own experiences with failure in their professional, personal and academic lives. From failing to obtain jobs to failing at their jobs, staff stepped forward to recount some of the lessons they have gained through failure, as well as how they were able to move on from it and find success later on in life.
“Being able to see adults, or people that have a lot of influence in our lives, people we look up to, being able to see them in a different way than you usually do, and to know that they've had these experiences of failure just as we will in the future I think it just makes opening up to people [about failure] a lot easier,” said Georgia-Leigh Hewitt, Class of 2022.
In addition to the staff, three students shared stories of their failures and the lessons that they learned from them. Sameera Singh, Class of 2022, spoke about taking a leave of absence during her freshman year. She reflected on her experience sharing at the event, saying “It was really interesting, because I had a lot of people come up to me even after the event and share how they took leaves of absence as well, and I felt a lot less alone after talking about it.”
Remarking on the stories he heard, McBain added: “There's a lot you can learn from everyone. You don't really touch on these stories just casually in everyday conversation, but then when you hear the things that they've gone through, you can really learn a lot from them, and it makes you realize it's ok to not know the answer to a problem, or how struggling is part of the process of many things.”
The event attracted a small but diverse audience of students and staff who came to hear their peers. “I really liked that there weren’t a ton of people, it made the experience very close and intimate, and I think that allowed for really raw conversations, which is the point of the event,” said D.J. Bobbs, NYU Shanghai, Class of 2021. Remarking on his experience at Screw Up Night, he said: “I'm from the Shanghai campus, and we don't often have events like these, so it was very refreshing to me, to walk into something like that. ”
With finals season approaching, the message of learning and accepting failure is something a lot of students can benefit from.
Matthew Gubbins is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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