How to Survive FoS

Foundations of Science, or FoS, are the infamous set of required courses for science and engineering majors at NYU Abu Dhabi. The courses are designed ...

Aug 30, 2014

Foundations of Science, or FoS, are the infamous set of required courses for science and engineering majors at NYU Abu Dhabi. The courses are designed to build the skill set required to move on to advanced courses in any field of engineering or science after two or three semesters’ study. The notoriety of FoS has spread, and so far seems to have made the courses a synonym for sleeplessness and coffee.
Taking FoS will make other’s schedules enviable; FoS students will have early morning classes every day of the week and will encounter horror stories about all-nighters. But those who enroll in FoS are probably already somewhat passionate about the sciences in the first place, which makes the experience meaningful at least and by taking FoS seriously from the beginning, there are ways to control how it takes over one’s life.
  1. Keep notes for chemistry right from the beginning of the year. In FoS 4 there is a cumulative final covering material from FoS 1 to 4. Physics and biology also have cumulative exams, but less emphasis is placed on remembering formulae and therefore notes are particularly important for chemistry.
  2. Attend lectures for Physics. Physics academic programs everywhere are generally approached with some trepidation. While the same is true for the level of chemistry or biology, the learning curve for physics is considered to be the steepest out of the three. Physics professors at NYUAD tend to be good, and if you make the effort to engage, despite its difficulties, FoS physics will be quite rewarding. Because all the explanations of the content happen in class, it is difficult to replace lectures with the textbooks.
  3. Ask questions. Professors design some of the material to be difficult and most will not mind questions from students. Professors also hold office hours and encourage students to go to these with any unresolved questions or misunderstood concepts.It is recommended to use these office hours or one should reach out to the course's Global Academic Fellow for further guidance. As new concepts are introduced fairly quickly, it is a good idea to ask questions as soon as one feels one does not understand something; lagging behind can quickly become overwhelming.
  4. Patience. Understanding FoS takes time and some brute force to chew through numerous concepts and problems. There is no need for stress but be prepared to put in a significant amount of time. Even if sciences have been one’s forte throughout high school, one will most likely come across some topics for which intuition will not suffice, but working through them and asking for help will at least enable you to perform satisfactorily in exams.
  5. Work together. FoS results are not curved, and as most people are better in some subjects than others, you can learn a lot from classmates. Also unlike most other classes, FoS meets every day, so it’s an easy opportunity to make relatively solid friendships early in the year.
Through the thick and thin of it all, FoS is a one of a kind formative experience. No other student will go through the difficulties you suffer, so do not feel ashamed to complain in-front of Arts and Humanities students at every opportunity.
Tiantian Zheng is a contributing writer. Email her at
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