Illustration by Reine Defranco/The Gazelle

A Senior's Farewell to College

Lamees AM is a contributing writer. Email her at Dear NYU Abu Dhabi, In less than 24 hours, I will begin my last week of ...

May 7, 2016

Illustration by Reine Defranco/The Gazelle
Dear NYU Abu Dhabi,
In less than 24 hours, I will begin my last week of classes as an undergraduate student here. Where has time gone? I could have sworn that just yesterday, I voluntarily woke up at 8 a.m. on a weekend in anticipation of receiving an admissions email. It took me about a half hour to build up the courage to open the email. I read the word Congratulations and jumped with joy, woke up the rest of my family and shared the news.
It seems like just yesterday that I walked into the lobby of Sama Tower to pick up the keys to apartment 914. It felt like an airport: unfamiliar faces from all over the world, suitcases, excited kids and nervous parents. When the Sama elevator voice said “Doors closing”, I was headed to the ninth floor, where I would meet the girls that would eventually become my best friends.
Back then, I became the new kid for the first time. This feeling didn’t end up being as scary as I thought, given the unique context of a campus that comprised two buildings, and the numerous faces and names I had to memorize in a short period of time. Classes were small, and so my voice was important and valuable. Professors actually recognized students outside of class, allowing us to build strong, long-lasting relationships with them. I knew, from the very beginning, that NYUAD would be special, and that it had great things in store for me.
I was right. As I look back at the four years I have spent here with all of you, I want to reflect on some of the experiences I have had with this community, and the lessons I have learnt:
  1. Love to learn.
NYUAD has embedded in me a love for learning. I majored in something, but learned other things just because I wanted to. I discovered interests and passions that I was not aware I had. I can now have conversations with people whose fields of expertise differ from mine. Still, I don’t feel that I know enough. There’s so much out there to learn. I know now that the end of university doesn’t mean the end of education.
  1. Learn to love.
This is an environment where diverse people come together. Diversity goes beyond different nationalities — and also means different ways of thinking, identities and passions. I learned to embrace these differences and take advantage of the diversity around me. I asked questions, I had interesting conversations, I went to different cultural events — and I have NYUAD to thank for these opportunities.
  1. If you have the means to, travel.
Traveling is incredibly important, particularly at this age, when we may be trying to figure out who we are or what we want in life. As we discover other places, cultures, people and ideas, we discover ourselves in the process. I found myself as I wandered around in cities where I was the stranger. When I went on class trips, I found joy in hearing people’s stories and seeing their ways of life. When I did J-terms abroad, I realized that time does not have to be limiting; there’s so much we can do, see and process in a short amount of time. When I studied abroad, I learned that I can manage on my own and that I am much stronger than I thought I was.
  1. Speak up.
It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to try and understand why things are the way they are. The world is far from perfect, and it’s up to us to try to make it a little better. As an almost-graduate with fresh, unique perspectives, I feel ready to take on this thing they call adult life. I know that I can make positive contributions. Why? Because this community said I can, and because NYUAD has prepared me for it.
  1. If you are comfortable, you aren’t growing.
I heard these words during Marhaba Week, and I haven’t forgotten them ever since. It was important for me to hear them at the time because as they were being spoken, I was sitting in the back row, next to people I knew. From that moment on, I decided to make myself uncomfortable. I decided to take classes in new areas, or areas I knew would be challenging. I pushed myself to understand ideas and concepts that were new to me, such as those of different cultures and religions. I spent more time away from home than I ever have by traveling to and studying in new places. I began to question and challenge my surroundings, particularly in my writing and film work.
I am so grateful for these experiences and lessons, and for the people I met and worked with. Our community is incredible – it’s a family. The majority of students, faculty and staff engage with each other; they genuinely care about one another and their surroundings. You all have contributed to my growth throughout the last four years, and the person I am today. This community will also contribute to the person I will be in the future. I’ve learned so much about NYUAD, about life and most importantly about myself. This is not a goodbye, but rather, a see you later – if not in person, then in my thoughts. Thank you all for everything.
Lamees Al Makkawy
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