Image description: Hobbes and Montesquieu stand in front of a purple background, with rows of text repeating STATS, GEPS, SPET, and Chinese vases and question marks scattered. End ID
Image description: Hobbes and Montesquieu stand in front of a purple background, with rows of text repeating STATS, GEPS, SPET, and Chinese vases and question marks scattered. End ID

Illustration by Milena Bisenic

Study Away Chronicles: In Defense of the Social Science Core

What is an NYUAD student, a specimen so peculiar in its nature, far away from NYUAD? Do they shed all of the Abu Dhabi ways in exchange for the culture of their new temporary home? Are they really out of sight, out of mind?

Mar 25, 2024

Very few NYU Abu Dhabi students are unaware of how unique our college is. We have all internalized the diversity our university hosts - we lunch with people from 4 countries without batting an eye and visit each other’s countries for Fall Break. We are located in Abu Dhabi, a hotspot of development and modernity, with an endless amount of career and other opportunities. We know just how high our standards for success are - ‘What are you doing this summer’ is a question that haunts all of us, from freshman to senior year. But what happens when you leave Abu Dhabi and are forced to interact with people whose university experience is very different? Let me tell you all about it, but particularly the differences I perceived between academics in New York and Abu Dhabi.
As a Social Research and Public Policy (SRPP) and Political Science double major, I too spent a whole semester complaining about all the requirements I needed to fulfill. Leading up to the GEPS midterm I think I was able to think of 40 other ways to spend my time ‘more productively’. I truly did not see a necessity in learning the development of first states in the Fertile Triangle or the routes Chinese vases traveled to Europe or how they related to my interests within my majors. This opinion was further reinforced by the experiences shared by my older friends, who failed to ever mention Hobbes or Montesquieu outside their Foundations of Modern Social Thought (FOMST) class. It seemed clear that the Social Science core classes were just a requirement we mindlessly needed to complete and that was so ingrained in the experience of social science at NYUAD that we must just accept our fate. My belief changed as soon as I arrived at NYU Prague.
NYU Prague attracted a variety of different students this spring. A certain group of us came to Prague with a wish to learn more about Central and Eastern Europe, an area that interests us either academically or intellectually. The cohort this semester is quite small and features only 3 NYUAD students, with the rest of the group from a variety of NYU schools, including CAS, Gallatin, and Stern.
As the classes in Prague are small, it is rare that people in my classes study the same majors or even attend the same school in New York. This means that we all come with very different academic foundations and frequently do not share the same library of references. While this does foster an ability for a multidisciplinary discussion, I find that sometimes we do not converse within the same wavelengths. This issue is overcome in Abu Dhabi, at least between the social scientists, by a required common background. I have taken for granted our shared understanding of Why Nations Fail, Mill’s Subjection of Women, as well as the shared stipulation to keep up both with the Middle Eastern, as well as US and home current affairs.
This knowledge cleft is further compounded by the fact that all of my classmates are either American or have grown up in the States. This creates an interesting divide between me - a now perceived foreigner - and them, a group united by their national identity and shared cultural similarities juxtaposed with Czech culture. Such a division is rare in Abu Dhabi - we are used to having 15 nationalities in a class of 20 people. This makes it common, accepted, and perhaps expected to bring up examples from home into a classroom discussion in a fashion that makes everybody able to discuss a unique and widely-unknown situation. This has slowly built up to a commendable amount of knowledge most of us possess about the world and is a result of our unique college experience.
So, while Global, Economic, Political and Social Development in Historical Perspective(GEPS), FOMST, Statistics, and other requirements seem and feel like a pain during the semester you take them, I argue they are of immense importance to our intellectual journeys. These courses not only teach us how to read and write (professors’ favorite defense for their status as required courses), but also provide us all with a shared bank of knowledge. When we are all able to operate with the same knowledge foundation, we can quickly ascend to more complex debates. This is something difficult to appreciate from a classroom in Abu Dhabi, where the memory of frequent Statistics quizzes is still fresh. However, being abroad and interacting with students from outside of NYUAD has made this clear to me. I hope I have successfully persuaded at least some of you to join me in this new-found appreciation of the Social Science core.
Andreja Zivkovic is a Columnist. Email them at
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