Advocating for a Community of Care

NYU Abu Dhabi made the big move this fall — we picked up our stuff, our remnants from the life we lived in the now distant Sama Tower and DTC, and ...

NYU Abu Dhabi made the big move this fall — we picked up our stuff, our remnants from the life we lived in the now distant Sama Tower and DTC, and transported it here to Saadiyat Island. This is our home; we are no longer in flux. We’ve been through a sea of change. Our campus is larger and our student body has the largest freshman population in the school’s history. We’ve witnessed an incredible growth in our administrative staff and we are now 30 minutes away from all things familiar to and cherished by those acquainted with Abu Dhabi. Nevertheless, we’ve planted our feet. Hopefully, over the coming years, Saadiyat Island will grow around us into a breathing, thriving cultural district.
Until time brings the changes that only time can bring, we continue to be one of the largest group of residents on Saadiyat Island. We are in many, many ways lonely. We are assumed to be some of the smartest young adults on the planet. We have a world-class faculty and probably one of the most diverse campuses in today’s world. Our differences and perspectives, that span the ends of the spectrum on just about every topic that can be discussed, are sources of learning about the community that we have struggled to maintain.
The NYUAD Confessions Facebook page is a slew of profanities or rage-filled posts about issues that affect us but do not warrant being made into issues of such massive proportions. Our responses to administrative actions have been aggressive and selfish. The increase in microaggressions I’ve observed is simply baffling. The kindness we afforded each other, at least in my time as a freshman and sophomore, doesn’t seem to have carried over to my senior year. I am to be blamed equally in this. I’ve avoided conversations by taking a different route on the High Line and blatantly ignored people because they were previously unkind to me.
In retrospect, my actions were immature and silly, coming from a place of discomfort caused by adjusting to the unfamiliarity of a new landscape. There is no discounting the fact that the changes we’ve experienced affect the conduct of our daily lives. Policies are fuzzy, issues we never spoke about, such as consent, are coming to the forefront. We’re also getting into some incredibly intense discussions about academic pressure and sexual misconduct, to name a few.
Still, the care we exhibit is found in limited interactions and spaces; a good first step. Programs like Wellness Week and REACH are bringing an air of comfort and openness, making dealing with stress and expectations easier. Groups like Headspace are taking the lead on addressing issues around sexuality in safe and accessible ways. Student Government and the Inter-Residence Hall Council have made themselves available for discussion through Town Halls and meetings.
Unless we, touted as the exemplary individuals we perceive ourselves to be, take the initiative to change things around us caring for each other will continue to remain one of our greatest struggles. Asking “how are you?” to genuinely know if someone is okay, helping a friend deal with the fact that being a senior and getting a B- on a paper does not define their worth, saying hello to someone you don’t know personally with a smile on the High Line – we have to engage to establish a culture that is concerned.
Change brings radical transformations, both good and bad; this transition has been the hardest thing I have seen a group of inspired individuals go through. Yet, here we are, approaching the end of our first semester in a landscape alien to most, in a city that has also been alien before our arrival. We made it this far, despite the tribulations of figuring out our meal plan, how to use the fewest cognitive resources in getting from point A to B and understanding the massive changes in policies that have come with our expansion. After this emotionally exhausting experience, it wouldn’t be too difficult to pause and think about the well-being of our campus. Nobody can come into our lives and help us create a community of care. We are the only ones who can take the step to care, in the hope that this culture will continue be transmitted to the future generations of this university and produce a healthier, more sensitive and empathic community.
Krushika Uday Patankar is a contributing writer. Email her at
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