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Illustration by Sidra Dahhan

Study away students concerned about having to pay for summer flights

What was my study away semester at NYU London like? This is an ode to missing friends, learning, and growing through travel.

Summer courses at NYU Abu Dhabi are often used as a way to catch up with credits, or major and graduation requirements. Students studying away at NYU Global Sites, in Spring 2023, are registered for these courses for the same reason. However, what is new this time is that most of these students who are on full aid by the university - which covers all flights to and from their home base each semester, J-term in addition to summer - are expected to pay for their own flights.
As a student on full aid myself, I recognize the immense amount of privilege that comes with the fact. Especially, having flights to and from Abu Dhabi and global sites each semester paid for. For this and countless other perks of full financial aid at NYUAD, I am grateful, as are many around me. However, it is also one of the reasons a lot of us were able to afford NYUAD and our degrees in the first place. It does not come from a place of ungratefulness or entitlement when the same people complain about having to pay for their own flights for a 4-week summer course.
Global Education, in collaboration with Nirvana Travel Agency, recognized part of this problem and offered an AED 300 Nirvana credit for those who may need to reschedule their flights. There are two problems with this. To provide an example, my flight is on May 16th from London (where I am this semester) to Karachi (my home base). This flight, unlike many others, is via Qatar Airways, so not only can I not rearrange my flight to stop in the UAE (Dubai or Abu Dhabi), but I am also forced to go home for the four days between the end of the Spring semester and the Summer. Since my ticket is not flexible, I am unable to make any changes to it, through Nirvana, or on my own. My only solution is to purchase a new return flight from Karachi to Abu Dhabi for the Summer, for which the AED 300 is not nearly enough.
Emaan Ali, Class of 2025, who is also from Karachi and on a Qatar Airways flight, explained, “For me, it would be the stress of trying to change the flight and being told constantly that you can not change it, but then other people around you are able to change. [...] Then having to go back home all the way just for a couple of days. You can’t even spend the couple of days enjoying because you’re so jetlagged and then you have to travel again.”
Let’s talk about other possible solutions. How about skipping the flight back home and getting a new one to go directly to Abu Dhabi, instead of traveling back home, or anywhere else? The problem with this is housing at the Saadiyat Campus, which is only available beginning May 21st. What about those who can change their flights via Etihad Airways or Emirates? The AED 300 credit is not enough to cover the change. What’s the problem with going back home for four days? It’s not the fact that students have to travel somewhere else before Abu Dhabi, but the costs of the next flight at the end of the transition period.
Despite all this, I believe I am still in a much better position than many. Karachi is closer to Abu Dhabi than most other cities. While I may be able to afford a return ticket to Karachi, or even somewhere else in Pakistan, expecting the same from those living anywhere other than South Asia and the Middle East is not only unreasonable but also incredibly inconsiderate on the part of the administration.
Matias Rodriguez, Class of 2025, explained how this “not only limits the idea of a global education but also limits the possibility of students to advance in their degree, [...] because they are accepted for a summer course but most of the students can not even do it because it’s too expensive [...] to buy the flight, or to change the flight from their [...] study away location to Abu Dhabi, especially when they’re planning to return back home over the summer.” He mentioned how flights to and from “North/South America and even some parts of Asia are way more expensive.”
Another crucial consequence of this, Rodriguez pointed out, is the fact that “many students [...] had to reject or withdraw from the course” due to financial constraints. These students rely on the university for their flights, and for many of them, it is next to impossible to purchase one themselves. For many of them, paying for their flights has meant falling behind on credits, or their major and/or graduation requirements.
Those who were able to buy their own flights are not in a much better position either. Some students were able to simply reroute their flights to Abu Dhabi by either canceling their second connection from Abu Dhabi onwards or changing flights. This is because some tickets are flexible and some aren’t. Ayesha Ahmed, Class of 2025, questioned “Why is [there] disparity in treatment? Why is there so much disproportionation? All of us are on full aid.”
Prinsa Chauhan, Class of 2025, commented on the fiasco, “If only departments across NYUAD communicated with each other, they would be more aware of this issue. Global Ed could communicate with Res Ed. It could have saved lots of students from lots of trouble. Right now we feel like only the [NYU] Abu Dhabi students are accommodated for, because [their] semester ends on the 20th, and Summer starts from the 22nd. In other global sites, the semester ends early.”
Chauhan’s personal scenario, like everyone else, was also unique. “My cheapest option was to book a flight from [London] to Abu Dhabi, do a summer course and then go back to Nepal. I will land in Abu Dhabi on May 17th, and then they won’t let me check in until May 20th.” She explains the “bureaucratic” processes she had to go through between multiple departments in NYUAD, from the Dean of Students, to Residential Education, to Global Education, (all of which contradict each other and forward the complaint to the next department) to be able to live on campus between this break. “If I am an international student in Abu Dhabi, I have nothing other than the campus. My flight lands at midnight. Where am I expected to go? I can’t afford a hotel. It costs them nothing if I am living [as an overnight guest] with my friends. The main thing is the bureaucracy; one department sending me to another [...] to another [...] to another [....]”
The purpose of this article is not to get NYUAD to pay for our flights. Students have already gone through all the processes necessary to sort it all out, accepting whatever outcomes their individual financial situations may bring. My intention is to emphasize what Chauhan called “inter-departmental communication,” and basic consideration for all students — those studying two doors from their offices, and those studying on different continents. It is important for a school that advocates for a global education and studying abroad as much as NYUAD does, to also be willing and able to cater to the needs of all those who are participating in it.
Shanzae Ashar Siddiqi is Senior Features Editor. Email her at
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