Illustration by Aakif Rattu

I will always remember our community for its immense capacity to care

Studying at NYU Abu Dhabi comes with many hardships, but there’s always help to be had.

Sep 26, 2022

Trigger Warning: This article mentions living with depression and anxiety.
In my four years at NYU Abu Dhabi, I have spent a lot of time talking with people about mental health and the role of the community in different capacities. I have offered a lot of myself to those working through exhaustingly horrible bouts of mental health by intervening and supporting them through crises and offering advice and a listening ear about navigating mental illnesses or struggles with burnout and stress.
In Spring of 2021, I felt broken and absolutely sure that none of that support that I had put into the community would come back to help me. My mental health had taken a hit after I quit taking my medication for the anxiety and depression I had been diagnosed with about two years prior. It felt like I was back to being a lost and helpless first year — unable to seek out help or be strong enough to help myself.
One night, I was at a friend’s place, where a couple of my closest friends had formed a circle full of quiet laughter and wonderful food in the glow of warm light coming from a lamp in the corner. With soft words and even softer eyes, they asked me how I was doing and feeling. I told them I was not strong enough to get past this semester, and that I spent most of my time sleeping to escape the real world. “What feels like a lot right now? What can we do to carry that for you?” They asked these questions in earnest, hoping to actually take some weight off. As I went on listing things out — the most harrowing one being how exhausting it was to gather the energy to go out to find something to eat — they started, strangely yet organically, assigning tasks to themselves. “I can do your laundry when it feels like too much,” one of them said. “We will bring you food,” said another.
The next day, they created a group chat called “Tiffin and Co.,” made specifically with the aim of making sure I did not have to worry about getting myself food considering how exhausting the task felt. Every day that month, I had a friend or another deliver food to my door. Sometimes, they would leave it at the door if I felt too overwhelmed to see another person, and other times, they would stay for a chat as we ate. A friend texted me almost every day to celebrate my tiny wins — “you took a shower, that’s awesome!” or “you did yoga, I’m so proud of you.”
Two years prior, during my first spring semester on campus, I had just gotten diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I had gotten on some strong medications that wreaked havoc on my body the first few weeks, eventually causing me to take a leave of absence. The few weeks I was on campus that semester, I was fueled by regular check-ins, friends going on food runs to make sure I was fed despite not having the energy to move on some days, and a whole lot of sincere care.
Here at NYUAD, we are a small community. Everyone knows everyone. People hurt each other, they help each other, they date and break up, break each other’s hearts, make mistakes that cause pain and say things to each other that unintentionally sting and bruise. We come from so many different kinds of homes and lives, carrying so many different kinds of pain and exhaustion and end up here, on this small campus that you can cover end-to-end in 10 minutes. Some of us begin to believe we are destined to carry our pain alone. We get angry and frustrated when we do not find the unburdening we desire in throwing ourselves into our work or within the walls of a trusted mentor or counselor’s office. We ask questions of the institution and start feeling a lack of care in our bones.
Then, we turn to this community we have built for ourselves and each other within this small campus. Sometimes, we turn to them to find out where we left our headphones; other times we seek out a gym buddy who could help us get past the anxiety of working out alone; and yet other times we reach out to talk — “Hey Sameera, can I talk to you about something that has been bothering me if you have the space?” We build online support groups, we rally together for the wellbeing of the campus cats, we throw elaborate birthday surprises for our dearest friends, we meet new people to go swimming or running together, we advocate for better resources for each other’s wellbeing, we stay up all night to support a friend through heartbreak, we use an extra meal swipe to feed someone else, we offer advice and consolation to peers, we clean our friends’ rooms when they are too preoccupied worrying about their families back home. We care. And in these same ways, we are cared for.
NYUAD, like any other community where people from all kinds of backgrounds live in close proximity to each other, comes with its own set of challenges and issues. None of what I have talked about here aims to negate that or brush it aside. Maybe what I have talked about even gets at how extensively we have to rely on each other for support. But as I begin to cautiously step into the real world, I fear the hardships I will have to go through to even begin to build a community like ours — one that is offered to us and readily welcomes us before we even get here. In about three months, I will officially graduate, and maybe reality will hit me so fast that these specific anecdotes will begin to become hazy, blurring over time to small bytes of information stored in a dusty shelf in my brain. Despite that, I will always remember our community for its immense capacity to care.
Sameera Singh is Senior Features Editor. Email her at
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