When I was invited in April to visit NYU Abu Dhabi for a weekend, my first reaction was ‘absolutely’, thanks to my strong adventurous spirit. And then I thought ‘no way’ due to my strong sense of self-preservation: flying 14 hours each way (24 hours travel time, door to door) with an 11 hour time difference for a mere two days did not fit my (or anyone’s) idea of sensible. Am I ever glad I let the adventurous spirit win! It was a weekend filled with incredible sights and experiences, and a new understanding of the incredible opportunity offered by the pursuit of an NYU degree while living in the United Arab Emirates.
The first class of students at NYU AD entered in 2010 and are the first to graduate with a liberal arts degree with one of two of the 22 majors offered in arts, science, engineering, social sciences. The students I met this weekend who took this unparalleled educational opportunity were all diverse thinkers, highly academic, global minded, and passionate about this experience. They have worked side by side with faculty and staff, one of whom is (Renee Dugan, ’90) to build a university in their downtown campus consisting of three buildings. The campus will now move from its temporary home on three sites to a brand new, 28 acre facility with 22 buildings on Saadiyat Island, due to open in time for their first convocation on May 25. It will be a spectacular and beautiful site to learn and live, of that I am certain. Nothing new is done in half measures in Abu Dhabi.
It is hard to condense my experience into a couple of paragraphs, but one of their 2014 grads eloquently summed up the ethos of the place for me this weekend: ‘There is no inertia here. Staff and students are risk takers and are untethered by tradition. You have to believe you can make magic and that happens here.‘ Everything I heard about the program, the place and the people, served only to reinforce this idea. Just 40 years ago, Abu Dhabi was a palace surrounded by a desert; now it’s a booming hub of 8 million people. There are 15 post-secondary institutions in the city, including a Paris-Sorbonne campus and local universities and colleges, and NYU AD is leading the charge to bring the students together for athletic and cultural events. All students take one or two semesters to study elsewhere during their degree, usually at one of NYU’s 12 global sites or in New York City, and have to do some kind of internship also, often in Abu Dhabi.
If you would like to take a look all the notes I took during my trip, please email me to ask for them. If you are interested in the photos, click on the thumbnails to enlarge (the camel was as grumpy about me riding him as he looks in the photo!). Finally, if you think NYU AD might be something you are interested in exploring as a university option, please come speak with me about it as there is the requirement for a counselor nomination as part of the application process.