Illustration by Rock Hyung Kang.

Omicron Stories from the NYUAD community

Several NYUAD students speak about their experience contracting Covid-19 on their way to campus this winter.

Two years into the pandemic, struggles with travel plans continue to arise for many NYU Abu Dhabi students. This issue became more prominent with the recent cancellation of the annual three-week January term (J-term), which gave students the option of spending the month-long break at home with their families. However, flying back to Abu Dhabi, for some, proved to be difficult, as many tested positive for Covid-19 prior to traveling.
Mikolaj Debicki, Class of 2022, said he had not expected the positive test at all as he was fully vaccinated and had received a booster shot: “It wasn’t quite expected, I got diagnosed when I did the pre-flight PCR. I had literally next to no symptoms, my throat barely scratched, I took two strepsils and that’s it.”
For Debicki, the most inconvenient part of the situation had been the quarantine. “I didn’t have much time to find the location for my quarantine, my girlfriend was staying in Warsaw so I couldn’t stay with her. I was in a rush finding the place.”
He then went on to say that he had to urgently book an AirBnb and was inconvenienced by having to pay out of pocket.
When asked about flying to campus, Debicki referred to NYUAD’s Nirvana travel agency: “I emailed them straight away and they were quite responsive, to be fair. They replied within a few hours and the procedure was pretty clear — I was really surprised by that.”
Hanzalla Usman, Class of 2023, found himself in a similar situation. He was completing his study away semester in New York City, and he expected to return for a J-Term in Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, before his flight, he tested positive for Covid-19 with his PCR test result.
“I was packing during that time, and I was really surprised because I didn’t have any symptoms,” Usman said. He waited the illness out in Islamabad, his hometown, which was a relatively pain-free and symptomless process for him; he then tested negative in a week and rescheduled his flight.
This, however, did not mean a smooth return to campus: “I moved to check in at the airport, and the airport was unable to check me in. The airport attendant was as confused as I was and tried checking me in through the business lane,” added Usman. “Eventually, a senior airport official tried to look into my case.” He found himself waiting for some clarity until he was told that his visa had been refused from Abu Dhabi. At that time, he had not been aware that his visa to enter Abu Dhabi had a 60 day limit.
“It was 5 a.m., and at this point, I knew the flight was going to leave without me now, so I asked my parents to pick me up,” Usman recalled. He is currently waiting for the Student Mobility office to reapply for his visa again and is optimistic that he will return to campus without missing many classes.
For Farzana Haque, Class of 2025, the best part while recovering from Covid-19 was the heartwarming support she received from friends, family and professors. She also found herself stranded in Bangladesh after testing positive and was soon hospitalized due to how low her oxygen levels had fallen.
“The Health Center booked an appointment to check up on me, even though I was at home. People are really helpful [..], and a friend of mine even got me my [text]books from the bookstore…The good thing is they also booked a counseling appointment,” Farzana shared.
She particularly enjoyed the support given by professors: “In the two days that I was in the hospital, the professors extended my deadline, kept telling me it was going to be fine if I was traveling or having some bad symptoms…and they recorded my lectures for me.”
Amina Rotari, Class of 2025, is another student who found herself in a traveling bind when she was flying from Nice, France, where the airport lab only operates on Sundays. After getting tested, her results came out when she had reached Istanbul. She received the ever dreaded positive result for Covid-19. “I realized that I can’t go anywhere,” said Rotari, “I couldn’t go back to France, [and] I couldn’t go to Abu Dhabi because I needed to board a plane. So my only choice was to go to my home country Moldova.”
Despite all of the aforementioned struggles, slowly but surely, students who were stuck at home are traveling back to university to start the semester, strongly determined despite the ravaging effects of the invisible virus.
Sara Vuksanovic and Nirvana Amjad are Senior Features Editors. Email them at
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