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Photo Courtesy of Tom Abi Samra

NYUSH First Years Stuck in Abu Dhabi

The Gazelle interviews NYU Shanghai first year students who are stuck in Abu Dhabi due to China’s Covid-19 restrictions.

Dec 12, 2021

The Gazelle sat down for a conversation with two NYU Shanghai first year students - Yan Konichshev, and Mahrukh Riaz, both Class of 2025, to learn more about their experience at NYU Abu Dhabi and their plans for the upcoming semester.
As of now, they are at NYU Abu Dhabi, finishing their study away semester, as China’s travel ban to curb the spread of Covid-19 has meant that international students have been unable to travel to Chinese universities.
“It was kind of a surprise, [learning] that we couldn’t go to NYU Shanghai,” said Riaz, who is from Abu Dhabi. “It was easier for me, compared to others, to integrate to NYUAD in my first semester.”
Konichshev agreed: “The process was kind of messy … because we [found out] in the middle of July [that we would be going to NYUAD].”
The two of them have enjoyed their semester so far.
“A lot of events are happening for us and we really do appreciate it, [The Office of Global Education] is allocating a lot of resources for this purpose,” shared Konichshev. To Riaz, the classes have been nice and accommodating, and the people she met improved her experience as well.
They highlight the support the NYUAD Office of Global Education has given them. “Our advisor’s really nice, Carol Brandt, she's very supportive — if we have any concern or any problem we can reach out to her and she will definitely help us,” stated Konichshev.
However, with the semester winding down, there came the need to think about Spring 2022, especially about travel and course registration.
“We recently got an email, which told us we would be staying here for the next semester,” shared Riaz. “Someone from Global Ed reached out to us to take two NYUAD courses and two NYUSH courses,” said Konichshev. “That was even before the official decision of us staying here was made.”
These students are taking two core NYUSH classes remotely, Chinese and Writing and Inquiry. “They were heavily advising from the beginning: take two NYUAD courses, so it kind of feels like they knew,” Riaz added.
“New York’s program for Shanghai freshmen will close next semester, and we will be allowed to stay at NYUAD, so Carol Brandt helped out a lot,” shared Riaz.
Another setback was visa processing and the visa documents.“Now with the Omicron variant, I think visas are being [even] more delayed with processing,” stated Riaz. “Before it was just the visa processing [issue] — now it's the flights, there are flights going, but we can’t book them, they're full.”
It was communicated that they would get their visa documents in order to apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy on time for the spring semester. “They sent us an email on Nov. 1, telling us that your visa documents that you have to have in order to apply for a Chinese visa will be sent to your address, which is NYUAD for us right now in three weeks, so Nov. 21. We haven’t heard back since then,” explained Konichshev. “We were waiting for the JW202 form, which states that the student can claim the visa and come to China to study, but it didn’t come,” he added.
Moreover, Riaz elaborated that the start of the spring semester was moved from January 27 to February 7, with the hope that every student would be able to fly back to China. However, even students at New York have not received their visa documents. “It’s pretty uncertain,” she highlighted.
No matter how the situation develops, the students have managed to find silver linings at NYUAD. For Konichshev, the difference in meal plans (or lack thereof) at NYUSH plays an important part in his experience. “The university still doesn’t have the whole campus in one place, so we would have to travel across the city to attend the classes,“ he added. That will not change even with the development of the new NYUSH campus next year.
“Time zones will be a struggle with online Shanghai classes, but otherwise I think it is nice that we get to stay in Abu Dhabi — we actually get [an] extra study away semester, which is something I don't think a lot of people can say,” shared Riaz.
Konichshev and Riaz got exposure to a wide range of cultural diversity at NYUAD, helping them enjoy both experiences once they hopefully join NYU Shanghai’s campus. “Our experience would be less global [starting at NYU Shanghai] — half of the student body is Chinese students, while at NYUAD there is virtually no such thing as student majority from a one specific country, so [the notion] of diversity is very different,” concluded Konichshev.
Stefan Mitikj is Senior Communications Editor and Staff Writer. Email him at
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