Illustration by Ahmed Bilal

Alien Life Researchers Redirect Focus to NYU Abu Dhabi

Over budget and with no materials for a large grant, a team of researchers has recently found that the Saadiyat bubble is so bizarre and detached from the real world that it warrants further exploration.

Nov 21, 2022

This article is a contribution to The Gazelle's Satire Column.
Tension filled the air as the Bahvahd Extraterrestrial Research Committee convened as snow blanketed the city. “I’m fresh out of ideas, and I never even had any to begin with,” said Nids Tinure, a Ph.D. fellow desperately looking to prove himself in the cutthroat world of academia. “My dad heads the chemistry department, my mom is vice provost, and my uncle donated a building. Why am I just a mere underpaid postdoc living on a small allowance of $10,000 a month from Dad?” The goal of the committee is to learn from alien ways of life that are so bizarre and detached from the real world that university graduates supposedly have to enter.
The research team thought they would have to look outside of Earth. The problem was that there were not yet any signals of extraterrestrial life, so throwing darts at a map of the universe would be a costly and probably unrewarding endeavor. But everything changed when the team was invited to spend its annual vacation at the Formula One races in Abu Dhabi. Once they realized that Abu Dhabi wasn’t in Saudi Arabia or part of the country of Dubai and didn’t involve riding camels everywhere, they were off to the races.
Lost and unable to make a U-turn after leaving the airport in an immense state of jetlag, the team ended up taking a left turn at Exit 11 on Saadiyat. What immediately struck out to them, amidst its desolate surroundings, was an imposing fortress of buildings in the same shades of white and orange. “Do you think this might be our answer?” Tinure asked in desperation. The group underwent many rounds of questioning to park their car in the B2 garage, and then they were thrust into a central square of artificial palm trees, fake birds, and real cats.
Meeting students was their best window into understanding the place, so they first spoke to Fossi Hirmit, Class of 2025. “I’ve been too busy maintaining the appearance of being busy, and of course with 5-hour labs and grueling problem sets, to ever leave campus,” he said. He hasn’t left campus, ever, and doesn’t plan to until graduation. “True global leadership is only occurring with this 40-acre confine,” he claimed, before escaping to his room to set up his minute-by-minute Google Calendar for the next week.
Already baffled, the researchers went up to the Library Cafe and plotted how they could sit and observe this strange place while blending in as students themselves. On the way upstairs, they noticed and counted several dozen security cameras. “Maybe Sandford University researchers got here first,” worried Pera Noida, another Ph.D. fellow. Another hypothesis was that NYU Abu Dhabi is a real-time reality show. Fortunately, neither is the case, and the plentiful observation infrastructure will allow the researchers to remotely survey the NYUAD way of life beyond their vacation.
Observing students place orders at Starbucks raised many more questions. “I’ll just pay with my Falcon,” said a student ordering her fifth Frappuccino of the week and a strawberry tart. The research team finally had an explanation as to the existence of the artificial birds at the palms: they were sacrifices to pay students’ debts for overpriced coffees and bookstore merch. Tinure talked to the student but didn’t want to offend cultural norms by asking about the bird sacrifice elephant just yet. “I’m so sick of this campus. I can’t wait to go to New York where I don’t have my every single action talked about, have real pizza, and can take the subway wherever I want,” she said. It appears that the Saadiyat experience is best enjoyed in small doses, with any student spending more than three consecutive semesters on the island risking entering a state of manic irritability. “The only way for some students to recharge is to study abroad from their study abroad,” Noida wrote.
The short stay at NYUAD generated more questions than answers, but questions that can finally fulfill a pressing research need. Life in the campus bubble felt so unnatural to the researchers that they thought it was a slam-dunk fit for their needs, so stay tuned for the next Life on Saadiyat Bahvahd Report on Netflix.
Ethan Fulton is Senior Opinion Editor and Satire Columnist. Email him at
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