Looking back at my first impressions of Saadiyat, in some respects I can't claim much has changed. I got terrible blisters on my feet from my back-to-school shoes at the start of this semester. Likewise, I have for the past three years continued my daily battles with the bathroom showers in residence halls. Yet, the fears of making friends, populating my sparse room and finding people that would remind me of home — those things have passed. Even my penmanship has marginally improved.
I've been writing a semi-regular journal for something like eight years now, and have recently started to open my mind to alternative types of writing and art — poems, sketches and doodles. This is one of the first entries from my new approach. I wrote it as I was in a taxi on my way to the Abu Dhabi International Airport, after a hasty two-day stopover to pick up my visa for my next study away site. I was feeling travel's effects, both physically and emotionally. I was staring at the soles of my dirty sandals, the ones that I've walked in since my first day of freshman year, thinking about something a new friend had said to me while I was in New York. We had just finished walking around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we were lying in the sun on the steps outside, talking about our dreams for the future and hopes for travel.
"Before you may imprint on the world, the world must first imprint on you," he said, musing on our strange global lifestyle.
I think about that statement often now, about how we carry with us the impact of what we have seen and done in the world and how that will affect the people we become and the choices we make. How will my experience of this world shape the impression I leave upon it when I die?
My diary is a bunch of bullet points where I recall events, quotes, thoughts and scandals from the past days and weeks. I chose to share this page because everything mentioned is pretty socially acceptable, so I don't think my friends will mentally crucify me for publishing their secrets. Rereading this page made me remember how much I enjoyed my January Term in Accra. When I read past entries, I am often filled with nostalgia and a deep appreciation for the people I've spent time with. I also find a lot of spelling mistakes.
Our memories are stories. When it comes to storytelling, I am more comfortable with using images rather than words. Sketching is a form of capturing moments, life events or ideas that cross one’s mind. This form of art focuses on process rather than the final result. Sketches tend to communicate the atmosphere, emotions, the artist’s mood and the way she sees the world around her. A sketch captures not only facts, but also feelings, and therefore provides a reflection of both.
Artists use sketchbooks for many different reasons. In the 15th century, artists kept sketches only for their inspiration, since sketches were not viewed as fine art. With the surge of naturalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, sketchbooks became a popular hobby enjoyed by both amateur and professional artists since it helped retain memories before photography was invented.
My three sketches can be viewed as typical moments from my life at NYU Abu Dhabi. For me, sketching is not just a way of freezing a moment and creating a memory; it is also a way of learning. Making some quick small drawings helps me understand movements and moods, and therefore, improve my art work. However, it is not only a matter of artistic exercise as there is also an element of learning more about myself and my surroundings.
Sketching requires me to pause and reflect on a particular moment; it allows me to express my reflections through lines, color combinations and composition. While making my quick drawings — especially in crowded public places — I try to analyze people, their behavior, and imagine what their motivations to do certain things might be. I sometimes try to figure out different social patterns, and maybe, archetypes behind these individuals.
Kristina Stankovic is Features Editor. Email her at email@example.com.