Image description: A header illustration featuring a glitchy, triple-view of a graduation hat within a white circle, against a dark background speckled with stars. End ID
Image description: A header illustration featuring a glitchy, triple-view of a graduation hat within a white circle, against a dark background speckled with stars. End ID


Advice from upperclassmen on preparing for real-world workplaces

As the academic year comes to an end, we interviewed rising juniors and graduating seniors asking them about their search for internships and jobs, as well as their post-graduation plans.

Apr 30, 2023

Completing an undergraduate degree is no small feat, and breaking out of the comfortable life we have built for ourselves on Saadiyat is even more of a leap to make post-graduation. With graduation fast approaching for Class of 2023, we interviewed graduating seniors and rising juniors for their thoughts on stepping into the real-world industry, how different it is from the work culture on campus, and evaluating how well campus prepares you for the post-graduation universe. Read on to find pieces of wisdom on how to best prepare for your post-graduation plans.
“I think one of the toughest parts was realizing that you're all by yourself now,” stated Amna Asif, Class of 2023, when asked how she felt about graduating this summer. “My summer after junior year was the first time I was living all by myself as I was interning in Dubai. Even the very minute tasks like finding a place to live, figuring out my finances or daily meals was a little challenging to figure out on my own.”
According to Akhat Suleimenov, Class of 2024, “NYUAD is such a comfortable place… people of the same age, peers, and a lot of activities. I think this is kind of a bubble zone.”
This challenge of transitioning from the life of an undergraduate to that of a working post-graduate is one that several other seniors echoed. From learning how to independently sustain one’s lifestyle, keeping an active social life even when we do not all live on the same campus, to adapting to a real-world workplace environment, many seniors have gotten the opportunity to experience what life would be like as a postgraduate through internships.
“I also very quickly learned that you can't really afford to slack off at work,” continued Asif, elaborating on her experience at her internship. “At college I would ask my professors for extensions if I was finding it difficult to submit my work on time, but at work, getting extensions is not feasible because there are so many people relying on your work so that they can use it to proceed with theirs.”
Speaking about the work culture on campus, Zhiyu Luo, Class of 2024, stated “I definitely feel [the campus work culture is] really toxic in the sense that everyone is expected to do work all the time. And sometimes one internship isn’t enough; some people do two. The CDC is not helpful, like, at all. Students basically have to rely on themselves.”
They elaborated on the lack of sufficient outlets and opportunities on campus, especially as a student of Literature and Creative Writing:
“There is one grad school that I really want to go to in Europe and this program requires me to have three months, at least, of professional full time work experience in journalism… I feel like I have to search for internships that actually secure those conditions but they're just really hard to find and most of them are based in the US… where students just can't get a work visa when they're based in Abu Dhabi. That just limits a lot of opportunities… and they just reject you without actually considering you at all, which is… not very fair and NYUAD has done nothing to help us with it.”
“I didn’t really enjoy [the internship search on campus] because most of the companies here are not for software engineers,” stated Suleimenov. “It kinda happens too late. This year the internship career fair was, like, in March and I started applying to positions in August and September so I wouldn't say that it was very helpful honestly.”
Offering a possible solution to improve the working of the CDC and make the internship/job search easier for students, Stefan Mitikj, Class of 2024, said “I think students would benefit if there were specific advisors that could create a group of students with similar interests and help them draft goals for themselves as well as help reach them through time with mentorship and guidance.”
In the meanwhile, here’s the unanimous piece of advice for the underclassmen wondering how to prepare themselves for post-grad — start early.
“All the experience comes from you doing something, not waiting, not asking, you just start doing it. The longer you wait the less chances you have of getting an internship,” stated Suleimenov.
Sharing his plan for early action, Mitikj added, “Attend career fairs, workshops, and networking events to connect with professionals and learn about potential opportunities. Building relationships with professors and advisors is really important, as they can guide you toward potential positions and would be instrumental when you’re looking for recommendations. Focus on building skills — it's important to develop skills that will make you a competitive candidate in your field of interest.”
Asif’s advice on being proactive runs along the same lines.
“Reach out to alums or other students who are familiar with the place you are applying to and ask them about the interview process and the work culture to judge if you would actually enjoy working at that place and you aren't just going to work there because it is a well recognized name,” added Asif.
Making an informed decision regarding your workplace is especially important because real life doesn’t have an add/drop period. “Take classes with professors in their fields, that definitely helps you a lot,” said Zhiyu, adding onto the already established importance of networking with professionals.
Upperclassmen admit that the work culture on campus and the pressure to secure work may take a toll on mental well-being.
“It feels like the last year of high school all over again,” said Mitikj. “I’m looking at both grad schools and full-time jobs after NYUAD, so I’m still creating the pros and cons list and looking at what would be best. No matter what I choose, what I find really important is to be in an environment conducive to learning and self-improvement.”
Receiving rejection after rejection requires the practice of resilience and an optimistic attitude. Many of the rising juniors and seniors we interviewed stressed that when applying, you must believe in yourself and apply for jobs even if you think you don’t perfectly meet the CV or visa requirements, because you won’t know if you don’t try.
“It doesn't matter how many rejections you get, all you need is one offer, one success, and after that your whole life changes,” said Suleimenov, who himself applied to three hundred positions this year, to secure three successful offers. “So apply early, don't give up, talk to your friends, go to the gym, have fun, don't forget about your social life when you're applying for internships.”
Tiesta Dangwal is Deputy Features Editor. Email them at
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