Graphic by Emily Wang/The Gazelle
It seems as if it were just yesterday when I was standing under the bridge at the Downtown Campus, marvelling at the tiny garden, a lush shade of green despite the dust and heat. Four years ago during my Candidate Weekend, I could not have envisioned how fast the institution would grow or how I would grapple with its challenges.
All I knew was that I had an opportunity to shape the vision of an institution and create a legacy. I probably didn’t understand what that meant at the time, but it sounded compelling, and so I grabbed it with both hands.
Four years later I can truly say that I have learnt more than I could have ever imagined. Anyone who is part of a start-up is sure to go through the craziest of challenges, failures and miscommunications. Continual, rapid change are all part of a daily routine. As an engineer, I had the unique opportunity to remain with a group of 13 students through four years. We were lucky. Every challenge we faced, we faced together. We saw each other in our strongest and weakest moments. I think I speak for many of the engineers when I say that these difficulties helped to forge powerful friendships and wove an impenetrable bond between us. I can say the same for most of the students in my class: The challenges have brought us together, for seldom are we able to walk on a campus and know the name of every student that passes our way. That’s how it was that first year.
At some point, we all went away to study abroad. No longer in the notorious bubble with ready-made food served in platters and luxurious apartments, some of us — myself especially — staggered in learning the art of independence. Our challenges were no longer just academic. A year in New York is sure to teach anyone the basics of life. I shopped for groceries for the first time, I cooked — and failed — and learnt to be comfortable alone. Upon my return to Abu Dhabi, I could not explain the resounding sense of appreciation I had for the support system we have worked to build here.
A university with a world-renowned reputation, an incredibly diverse student body, a liberal arts philosophy — all these are ingredients for explosive growth. We are at an integral point in our development and the success of our institution depends on us now more than ever before. My classmates’ career and employment successes, graduate school acceptances and their future community work will all reflect on NYU Abu Dhabi. In fact, at this early stage in our development, anything that anyone from each of the four classes does before or after their graduation will contribute to the NYUAD image.
I remain optimistic. Regardless of the opinions we may have concerning the success of our school, what we must all understand is that our actions and attitudes will determine it. Whether we are here or away, as students or alumni, we should strive to be the best that we can be. For there is only so much that administration and top faculty can do to legitimize NYUAD as a top-tier college. The rest is up to us.