Freshmen Thoughts on First Year Dialogue

On the weekend of Jan. 30 and 31, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Class of 2018 completed the First Year Dialogue program with students participating in service days ...

On the weekend of Jan. 30 and 31, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Class of 2018 completed the First Year Dialogue program with students participating in service days based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The weekend was organized by the Office of First Year Programming in collaboration with the Office of Community Outreach and gave the students the opportunity to connect with and contribute to the community. The three locations where different groups conducted their programs were the Mohammed Bin Zayed Women's Labor Camp Abu Dhabi, Al Barari Nursery in Dubai and an on-campus Special Needs Family Fun Day.
As a culmination of the program, which began last semester, the mandatory session aimed to fulfill a primary learning outcome of the curriculum: civic engagement.
“Immediately after the program, we heard students asking for more volunteer opportunities,” wrote Assistant Dean of First Year Students and Director of First Year Programming Mary Barnes. “Due to their busy schedules, they hadn’t signed up for these activities. But after the program, they realized how much they enjoyed it and saw the value in it. Sometimes we need a little push to try new things and FYD can provide that push.”
For some freshmen, the program was an opportunity to interact with their own class members.
“For me, the Service Day program was a great bonding opportunity because I had not seen many of my friends since last semester,” said freshman Shreya Shreeraman.
The curriculum was based on four learning outcomes: Interpersonal Skills, Personal Development, Civic Engagement and Campus Connection. Discussion topics were first tested on two pilot groups of volunteering sophomores in Spring 2014 and then finalized after feedback and additional research.
A total of 35 groups were formed, each consisting of six to seven freshmen, with organizers accounting for diversity among students. These groups were led by facilitators from the Office of Student Life, Global Academic Fellows and library staff members in weekly sessions. Students were also given weekly assignments to complete.
Sophomore James Carrington Gardner, who was involved in the pilot program, agreed with the decision to make the program mandatory for all incoming freshmen.
“Making it compulsory for all freshmen builds towards creating an integrated community, as it forces these interactions and gives you a University 101 class where you learn the basics of living in a residential university,” said Gardner.
But for some freshmen, the program’s discussions seemed unnecessary and forced.
“Some long awkward silences would follow when overly sensitive questions about personal relationships ... were asked,” said freshman Carrisa Tehputri. "More over, the timings were so inconvenient and late at night. Some snacks or food would have encouraged us to be more active.”
When asked about the structure of the sessions, Barnes indicated that future iterations of the program will undergo revisions.
“One of the changes that will be implemented next year is giving facilitators a range of optional activities so they can adjust the session based on the needs of their group and not feel tied to a script,” wrote Barnes to The Gazelle.
While some students appreciate the effort made, many felt that a few key changes could have made the program more constructive.
“As a program [that] introduces us to a new experience of college [and] the special place we fall in considering the wide diversity [of] the student body, FYD in many ways tried to cushion the transition,” said freshman Rafael Lino. “But it enforced the concept of the Saadiyat bubble. I would liked to have known more about the city, Emirati culture and how we fit into this environment.”
The program, however, is still in its initial stages, and organizers express a desire for future adjustments in accordance to student reaction.
“The curriculum will never be complete as we will change and grow every year from the feedback we receive from every class, facilitator and continued research,” wrote Barnes.
Karma Gurung is deputy features editor. Email her at 
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