The View from Saadiyat

My favorite time to be alive is in the early evening, in the pocket that is neither day nor night. The spare moments in which the sun begins to drop, ...

Sep 19, 2015

My favorite time to be alive is in the early evening, in the pocket that is neither day nor night. The spare moments in which the sun begins to drop, shadows lengthen and the whole universe seems to be standing upon a great buzzing precipice. Something is imminent, but no one is quite sure what.
My perspective on the past three weeks of life at NYU Abu Dahbi is a viewpoint from such a precipice, with 85 nationalities, over 100 different languages and some 300-odd freshmen ready to jump.
From here, the entirety of our next four years is splayed out across a landscape of hazy sand dunes and distant skyscrapers. The same daunting question echoes back to us from over the edge:
“How’s the view?”
My answer is complicated. I have eaten hummus at almost every meal so far. People smile at me regardless of whether I can remember their name or not. I have broken bread with students from five other continents, all of whom have infinitely different answers to any question I could ever ask. My classmates are more passionate, eloquent and inspiring than any group of people I have ever met, and their ambitions have already shown me that my dreams are much too small to fit in here on Saadiyat. So, in a multiplicity of ways, it is already a more wonderful adventure than I could have ever hoped to embark on.
Yet, there is a stillness on the edge that cannot stay. I have tried to express this restlessness in daydreams and across Skype calls, but the exact rhetoric seems to reside in some exceedingly distant place. I know that living here is not all dates and shawarma. There is some great something on the horizon, and it has a name: reality. The pervasive excitement and exhaustion has overtaken us as of late, but soon our lives here will truly become ours. We will fall into routines and circles and habits, and something taking the form of real life will arise.
In short, my perception of life here is still in its genesis. I am easily excitable, quickly convinced and aware that this newness will fade. I treat the inconsequential and the paramount with anxious equity and have yet to experience the drudge of monotony that I’m sure will hit us all at some point this year. I have joined 12 too many Student Interest Groups, and I am still genuinely impressed by the selection of food at the dining hall. I am in the dizzying state that accompanies the transition from home to what will hopefully become a home. Our next four years are just beginning, and the realization of a new normalcy is just visible over the horizon.
We are all on the edge, and we all know this at some level. The future is as capricious as it is thrilling. Maybe we stepped off the edge when we left our parents at the airport or when we uttered our first complaint about the weather — maybe we have yet to really pitch forward into the unknown. I cannot say with certainty whether we have jumped or not, but I have no recollection of falling. So I will wait here, at the pleasant slope of daylight as it fades into dusk.
“How’s the view?” I hear the question reverberate around me.
Ask me again next September. Maybe by then I will have gotten over the vertigo.
Jocilyn Estes is a contributing writer. Email her at
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