50 Things Every NYUAD Freshman Should Know

Video by Megan Eloise/ The Gazelle Dear Class of 2018, There is no way to go through college without making mistakes. But even as we continue to change ...

Dear Class of 2018,
There is no way to go through college without making mistakes. But even as we continue to change majors overnight, miss Skype dates with old friends and plead with airline officials to let us take those extra few kilograms on board, we still learn a lot along the way. Taking a cue from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Office of Admissions Blog, here is some advice, from three generations of NYU Abu Dhabi students, so you can make all the right mistakes, but none of the wrong ones.
  1. Have confidence. You are here for a good reason, even if you don’t know what that is yet.
  2. But don’t get cocky. You have a lot to learn, young grasshopper.
  3. Explore the city. If Abu Dhabi seems limited to you, then it is up to you to look further.
  4. Countless shops sell chai for 1 AED. These one dirham cups save lives and grades.
  5. So does hummus.
  6. Tread carefully with dokha. Look up its health effects or ask somebody. Preferably multiple, well-informed people.
  7. Visit the gym. The freshman 15 is not a myth.
  8. Your body is a temple — even on Thursday nights.
  9. Try to make Emirati friends.
  10. If you haven’t already, seriously consider learning Arabic.
  11. Take a position on the Oxford comma and defend it to the death.
  12. Invest in a backpack. You will travel more than you think you will.
  13. But don't feel like you have to leave the country every break.
  14. Join in. Find a Student Interest Group or start a new one.
  15. Invest, don’t spectate. You’ll always remember the chants on the bus after a dragon boat victory or your first Open Mic performance.
  16. College comes with new independence but you don’t have to compromise your values. If partying is not your thing, do not feel like you still have to be intoxicated on Friday mornings.
  17. Similarly, you do not have to do an internship or work in the summer just because your friends are.
  18. Learn from your peers — don’t be intimidated or disheartened by their successes. Many of us are only pretending to have our lives together.
  19. We are all nerds here. Don’t be afraid to show what you love.
  20. Don’t expect everything to fall into place for you. Fight for it, or decide to fight for something else.
  21. Talk to your professors about papers, grades and life.
  22. Global Academic Fellows do help.
  23. Help will always be given at NYUAD to those who ask for it. Your peers may be some of the greatest people you will ever meet and we’re all in the same boat.
  24. Turn up on time.
  25. It is okay to be placed into Math Functions or Analysis and Expression. Do not make it a matter of hurt ego or lost pride. Foundational courses are often advantageous.
  26. FRESHMAN YEAR GRADES DON'T COUNT. Sort of. If you’re worried, ask a grown-up, not Facebook.
  27. That said, the aforementioned policy is no reason to not take your academics seriously. Challenge yourself always.
  28. When NYUAD says diverse, it means diverse. Do not assume people's religious, social or cultural backgrounds. More disputes arise because of assumptions than actual facts.
  29. Do not make assumptions about people’s financial support packages either.
  30. Respect differences. You do not have to change your mind or change somebody else’s mind, but you do have to learn how to live with these differences.
  31. Listen.
  32. You do not have to be a global leader, despite what all the press releases say.
  33. Do not leave clothes for too long in the washers or dryers. Others won’t thank you for it and things go missing.
  34. Staying up all night to finish that paper is not a badge of honor. Take pride in managing your time well.
  35. Do what you say you’ll do. Show up. If you really can’t come, apologize profusely and let the organizers know in advance.
  36. Take photos, make videos, write jokes and conversation — twenty years later, you will want to remember college.
  37. Be silly. Build pillow forts at midnight and bake a cake every Saturday. You’ll remember the silliness when all the seriousness has faded away.
  38. Take part in the 24 Hour Film Race. Our university is small enough that you can do things you’re not trained to do without judgement. So you’ve never taken a film class in your life? Who cares. Make a mockumentary about your pet goldfish.
  39. Invest in quality speakers, an enormous blanket or a good saucepan. Have something that is yours and makes your room a home. Just make sure it fits in your storage box.
  40. Once in a while send a letter or a postcard to your parents, teacher or best friend.
  41. Friendships aren't static, especially when you're separated by thousands of miles. Be okay with that.
  42. Let yourself change too. Don’t think too much about the past and focus on moving forward.
  43. Be proud of who you are and where you come from.
  44. Romantic relationships are mysterious things. We recommend a trial and error approach — you’re young.
  45. Be prepared to defend Abu Dhabi and the Middle East against Orientalism for the rest of your life.
  46. Long distance relationships are difficult and you will need to go the extra mile. Be brave enough to cut loose when it's not working out.
  47. NYUAD is our community and our unfinished creation. Be proud of it.
  48. And don’t be afraid to fix it where it needs fixing.
  49. Ignore all of us upperclassmen and other people who tell you what you just have to do at college. It’s your four years, and you’re welcome to disregard as many acronyms as you like: FoS, FoMST, JSTOR, FOMO, TL;DR, GPA, FML, YOLO.
  50. You'll fall asleep on sand dunes, wake up in Kathmandu’s valleys, argue about imperialism, nationalism and Orientalism over shisha late into the night, love somebody from the other side of the world and get so lost along the way. Remember how lucky you are and be thankful.
Khadeeja Farooqui is features editor. Email her at
Joey Bui is an editor-at-large. Email her at
Jamie Sutherland is a contributing writer. Email him at
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