Graphic by Dorothy Lam/The Gazelle

Experience for NYU New York students develops with NYUAD

I still remember my first days at NYU Abu Dhabi, roughly a year ago. Jet-lagged and one of the last students to arrive, I dragged myself through the ...

Graphic by Dorothy Lam/The Gazelle
I still remember my first days at NYU Abu Dhabi, roughly a year ago. Jet-lagged and one of the last students to arrive, I dragged myself through the busy Marhaba schedule, making my best effort to enjoy the myriad of activities but also longing for some rest. One morning, while I had breakfast in the Dining Hall, I saw a face I did not recognize from my hours of pre-arrival Facebook stalking. She was a student from NYU New York spending the fall semester in Abu Dhabi. I welcomed her to NYUAD and left, contemplating the irony of having welcomed someone to a place to which we were both so foreign.
For the last three years, NYUAD has welcomed many NYUNY students who have chosen to come here for a semester or two. Like many NYUAD students, they have faced the challenges of fitting into a well-established community, adjusting to a new environment and coming to terms with the rougher parts of a system in the making. Moreover, they have served a crucial role in integrating Abu Dhabi and the Square insofar as they have helped to blend the sometimes-divergent identities of two of the portal campuses.
NYUNY senior Sundus Arain, who studied in Abu Dhabi in Fall 2012, wrote to The Gazelle saying that it is a lack of knowledge about each other that feeds the misunderstanding between NYUNY and NYUAD students.
“I think both NYUNY students and NYUAD students do not completely understand the struggles the others face ... NYUNY is one of the worst schools in the U.S. for financial aid assistance ... but it's almost a non-issue in NYUAD. The opinion on John Sexton is much more divided, because he acts differently [on the Square] than he does at NYUAD —he is not universally loved and adored,” Arain wrote.
Arain also discussed the stereotype of NYUNY students being less competitive.
After recounting numerous examples from her time in Abu Dhabi, Arain added, “Not only was it off-putting — it was like NYUAD students were trying to create a disconnect — but [it was also] insulting! I'm in a scholars program and on a tuition scholarship of my own.”
NYUNY senior Alexandra Lenihan, who studied at NYUAD in Spring 2013, said her experience was different insofar as she found many ways to participate and get involved in the community:
“I also had a great experience being involved with the theater department. The theater kids and teachers welcomed me with open arms, and I was able to participate and feel like I was just as involved as [NYUAD] students,” she said.
Lenihan’s comments resonate with Emily Burlinghaus, who chose to stay in Abu Dhabi for the whole 2013-2014 academic year. She reported that it was the student body who ultimately made her decide to stay and that this was a direct result of her getting involved with the community.
“I also got engaged with the student body here in the touch rugby team, and I joined ADvocacy ... I really appreciate all the efforts of the students that do that,” she said.
She added that students should strive to get involved with the site regardless of the length of time time they are spending there.
“It’s still this same university. Both campuses are part of the Global Network University, so I think it’s important to engage yourself in both places. It’s not really an issue of how long you’re here.”
However, Arain said that the nature of NYUAD as a portal campus may conflict with the expectations of what many students think a study abroad experience should be:
“Studying abroad is about getting immersed and exploring a different cultures and ways of life, and I'm not really convinced I got that in Abu Dhabi ... Everyone else there, for the most part, was there to study. It makes sense — that is where they go to school.”
Vice Chancellor of Global Education and Outreach Carol Brandt leads the exchange program for NYUNY students in Abu Dhabi. In an interview with The Gazelle, she discussed the challenges of trying to cram the NYUAD experience into a semester or two and shared a detailed program schedule designed to allow students to discover Abu Dhabi and the UAE. Brandt also elaborated on the difficulty the first groups of visiting students faced as they joined not only a well-established community but one in which they were the most senior students.
Global Education has devised new strategies to ensure a smoother transition for students into their new environment. One of these is the creation of Global Education Officers at NYUAD, who will help NYUNY students engage with the community. However, she said that the office is also working on setting appropriate expectations for students coming from New York.
She invited NYUAD students to help visiting students feel more welcomed on campus:
“We will soon have students from Shanghai also. We will have a growing number of students from the Square. I would challenge NYU Abu Dhabi students and the Student Government to contribute to imagining strategies to making people feel welcomed, valued, included in conversations.”
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