Illustration by Assel Mukanova

Saadiyat Time Loop Syndrome: The Next Pandemic

According to the Health Center, a substantial majority of students have always suffered from Saadiyat Time Loop Syndrome, with campus running on a minority of caffeinated overachievers. But it seems like soon no student will be untouched.

Nov 13, 2022

“Capstone? What do you mean? I was just lounging around in the Marriott hotel, quarantining after my arrival to Abu Dhabi yesterday,” said Mytims Inding, Class of 2024, during a meeting with his academic advisor. As he was getting ready to go to the dining hall to get takeout alone for the seventh meal in a row, he thought about how little he had really accomplished during his time at NYU Abu Dhabi. He remembered all the things he would tell himself he’d finally get to every semester. Apply to internships, actually visit Soul Beach, and smooth out any of his expanding list of unavoidable conflicts on campus. But in reality, every semester simply became a cycle of burnout instead: Midterm season would drag on interminably — exams before the break, work during the break, exams after the break. Then came more exams and more research papers, leading him to lose track of time and space as he never left the Saadiyat campus.
As he reflected on this unfurling of reality, a Google Calendar reminder popped up on his phone: “Paper due tomorrow.” This prompted him to realize he had to determine what day it was. He still had regular classes tomorrow, so it wasn’t Thursday. And it felt like the week had just started. He finally realized it was Wednesday. Two weeks ago, he received the research paper assignment. But it felt like it had been two days, or one undefinable period of time that blended completely together. “We should have a little bit more time because there’s no way anyone has managed to finish this,” he thought to himself. He asked for an extension, but when he showed up for the peer review the next day, it seemed like somehow all his peers had managed to make it work. “Am I the lazy one? Always have been,” he thought to himself.
Being the “lazy one” in an environment that values hard work, or the pretense of it, is very difficult. “But what if it’s not just me? What if we’re all trying not to look like the lazy one in our lives as we navigate this place?” he asked himself. Increasingly, students have sought solutions to how they are feeling on campus. This increased awareness has allowed the Health Center to discover a syndrome that has always pervaded the student body but is now threatening the maintenance of basic university services: Saadiyat Time Loop Syndrome.
A student afflicted with the syndrome may find themselves waking up in the morning for their 8:30 a.m. economics recitation, or they might not and guiltily get out of bed and vow to make up the work later. Either way, their morning ends up blending into an afternoon only punctuated by getting a grab-and-go sandwich to minimize the time spent there. Waking up in the morning is taxing, so the afternoon is then followed by a nap lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Then comes an internal battle to finally get out of bed, and then a dinner that goes much the same as lunch. A post-dinner food coma then follows, especially if the student sought an escape from campus food monotony through Deliveroo. Late at night, the student will complete their most urgent assignments, not get started on any of the other million tasks pressing on them, vow to do them tomorrow, and go to bed.
This cycle can persist through many semesters. Students can begin being afflicted as early as the midterm season of their first-year fall, but typically the second-year fall or spring is the appropriate starting point. The time loop only gets worse from then onwards, lasting until graduation for the vast majority who fail to figure out how to break the cycle. The only thing these students manage to globally lead in is their time spent lying in bed suffering from an existential crisis.
There are some coping mechanisms for dealing with the affliction, but they fail to address the broader issues at hand. Depending on their passport strength, afflicted students might be found checking Google Flights during half their waking hours, using going to college in Abu Dhabi as a vehicle to escape Abu Dhabi, or they might be found engaging in flame wars on university groups just to have a spirited conversation for the first time in weeks. With a gradual cut to student financial support over the years, conspicuous consumerism is no longer an option for as many students, but some can still be found wandering the aisles of Zara and Sephora. “It’s easier to ward off the appearance of existential dread than existential dread itself,” said Inding.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for the syndrome besides graduation. Even then, the sense of malaise can persist well into any graduate’s PwC consulting career. Multiple departments on campus have started a study into possible remedies, but the students working on it have burned out themselves and are now each experiencing a severe case.
Ethan Fulton is Senior Opinion Editor and Satire Columnist. Email him at
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