A header illustration featuring the phrase “Class of 2026” in neon lights, along with the drawing of an open book, on a large chalkboard.
A header illustration featuring the phrase “Class of 2026” in neon lights, along with the drawing of an open book, on a large chalkboard.

Illustration by Sidra Dahhan

Rising Sophomores, Rising Anxieties.

The Gazelle spoke to rising sophomores to explore how the Class of 2026 feels about their first year, the highs and lows, and their hopes for the coming year.

Apr 30, 2023

As the year comes to an end, students that were once called first-years are now being addressed as ‘rising Sophomores’, and the Class of 2026 have several things on their minds. While some are worrying about course registration, housing, and study away applications, others are looking into the future and planning out what they want to achieve in their second year at NYU Abu Dhabi. As they wait for their CO’ 2026 sweatshirts to finally arrive, students shared their experiences, opinions, and feedback about their academic year with The Gazelle.
One of the most pressing issues at the moment is the decision of whether or not to study away in Sophomore Spring, and how that is going to play out. While some are unbothered by the entire process, others have shared their opinions about the looming deadline and being overwhelmed.
When Lisa Solomanchuk shared her viewpoint as a Psychology major, she mentioned that “the drawback is the paradox of choice: the more options you have, the harder it is to pick just one.” This was said in response to the multiple study away sites available for Psychology students and the difficulty she faced when having to narrow down her options and choose one site.
Tiesta Dangwal shared a similar feeling about the nature of the process by saying that, “The problem is that the deadline is June 1 [for Sophomore Spring], and I think, at least in my opinion, it is a bit too early for me to have already decided what I’m going to do in Sophomore Spring, which is a year away.” This was followed up by the statement, “It’s very overwhelming.” The fact that this deadline is one that looms in between finals, summer break, and the June-term classes is something that should also be considered, as it is one more checkbox that students have to put on their to-do list.
While some students will be living abroad for half of the academic year, others will remain on the Abu Dhabi campus. This has, inevitably, sparked worry about the current housing problem. Out of the eight students interviewed, three students said that they are either not worried or got lucky with housing, one mentioned that they were not affected by the process, and four students were annoyed at or disappointed by the current housing situation.
Afomia Mengistu concisely summarized her view on the matter by saying, “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Others shared that sentiment, with Manahil Faisal stating that, “It’s not very hard to figure out … just to prevent this absolute chaos,” and following it up with “I’m not very optimistic.”
Aalia Imran also echoed the opinions of several students that applied for the Residential Assistant or Weyak programs and said that she is “still not happy about the fact that they made us choose housing before the RA decisions were out.”
After the updates rolled in and it was announced that A3 and A4 buildings were going to be open for next year, many of the current first-years felt joyful about the possibility of getting a bigger single room. However, Dangwal had a differing opinion and said that, “I think we will be separated from our groups [and not get singles] because they sent a different email to the juniors and seniors … saying that the upperclassmen will get priority for A3 and A4 housing.”
Some rising Sophomores were luckier than others with Wajd Ashira saying, “It didn’t really affect me because I got a dorm,” but then mentioning that his friends were not as lucky.
Matthew Abate shared a similar experience when stating that “A few of my friends are super stressed about it,” but since he secured a room for next year, he was not worried.
Several aspects of housing were mentioned as something that our cohort wants to see change in next year. It ranged from smaller issues that are easily fixable, such as Abate mentioning that he would like “more clarity on course registration and housing and things like that,” to bigger issues, like Mengistu mentioned when she said she would change “all of the stress and all of the anxiety caused by how large our class is” in terms of classes, housing, and resources.
She then added that she “chose NYUAD because it is a small school and the fact that there are a lot of us kind of defeats the purpose. It would be nice if they expanded when they expanded the class size - to expand their resources as well.”
One of the more nuanced ideas that were shared was by Dinobichukwu Ibegbu when she said that one thing she would like to see change in is the diversity of “the housing even more for first years … You could have a floor, like mine, with only one Black or African or colored person and the rest are not… It can be very lonely at first when you have no one you can identify with.”
While housing was definitely one of the most controversial parts of the first-year experience so far, others brought up more ideas for what they would appreciate seeing change at NYUAD. Extended gym hours in the morning, specifically for the Women’s Only gym, a bigger SIG offering, more funding for SIGs, and a wider range of job opportunities for pure science majors were all things that were mentioned.
Ashira had strong opinions about the various on-campus events that promoted de-stressing during exam season, saying that he feels “like they host too many events … and they say it’s to reduce stress but I feel like the events they host clash with how much work we have and I feel like it’s counterproductive … for me it’s counterproductive.” He would also like for there to be less of a divide between the freshmen and upperclassmen, as to him, there is a visible power dynamic at play and he finds himself being “intimidated by upperclassmen.”
Out of the eight people that were interviewed, there was simultaneously a wide range of opportunities that the rising sophomores were looking at for next year, but also a lot of overlap between them. Four people expressed interest in acquiring an internship or work experience while another four mentioned that they would like to join a lab, work with professors, or do some research. Four people also expressed excitement about the prospect of studying away during the spring semester. Becoming an RA/Weyak Leader, taking a language course, completing requirements, becoming the president of a SIG, volunteering more, and simply growing as a person all make it to the list of the cohort’s hopes and dreams for their second year.
Having big goals and dreams can only be seen as admirable, but everyone, except one person, shared that they had fears going into sophomore year. Several people said that sophomore year feels more concrete, with GPA having more of an impact and everyone being more settled in.
Faisal put it succinctly when she said that she felt like “it’s all more real now.” This permanency comes with a lot of fear about understanding ourselves and finalizing what we want to achieve in life.
Mengistu touched upon the fact that “it’s one more year closer to figuring out what to do with my life.” When studying at NYUAD, there is also an expectation to be actively involved with the community and events on campus. Dangwal stated that there is difficulty “choosing between what I should do,” and emphasized this feeling by saying that fear is “not having anything to do in Sophomore year … there’s a lot of pressure … to do something concrete.”
In true NYUAD fashion, several people expressed concern about not getting the courses they wanted, such as Imran and her fear regarding the engineering schedule she has to follow in order to get her requirements done. Others also expressed fear about falling behind academically and feeling “kind of lost next year” as Abate said. While this feeling of a constant rush to achieve everything in time and to get the most out of the NYUAD experience has definitely set in for many of us during freshman year, it has also definitely been reflected in the friendships we have formed and how we have maintained them. Ashira’s biggest fears were friend-related and he said that he feared “losing the friends I have right now … [or] the friendship dynamic changing.”
As the first year comes to an end, and we have to say goodbye to our seniors, we are all once again reminded of the finality of everything. Whether it is a class you hate, an event you found insightful, the friends you made along the way, or the new hobbies you discovered on campus, the year comes to an end and with it, many of these experiences are formed into concrete memories in our brains. As a first-year, my only hope is to go into Sophomore year, start all over again, and wish to evolve as much as I did in my first year, if not more.
Dana Mash Al is Deputy Columns Editor. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org
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