Students at New York University Abu Dhabi were able to graduate at an in-person ceremony on Monday for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
A total of 364 students from 85 countries received their degrees at the university’s ninth commencement ceremony — the largest cohort to date.
Keynote speakers at this year's ceremony, held at NYUAD's Saadiyat Island campus, included Ellen Stofan, under secretary for science and research at the Smithsonian Institution and former chief scientist at Nasa, and internationally renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor.
While the ceremony was usually held at the campus in Abu Dhabi, celebrations were moved online for the past two years, because of the pandemic.
This month, some students from NYUAD class of 2020 and 2021 travelled to New York to attend a ceremony at New York's Yankee Stadium.
This year, graduates were delighted to be met with all the traditional pomp and splendour.
Nigerian student Ibrahim Suleiman, 22, was excited to get his degree in front of his father, who had travelled to Abu Dhabi to attend the ceremony.
“It feels good to have our graduation in-person because we had witnessed that the previous classes had virtual celebrations,” Mr Suleiman said.
“We had feared we might be in the same situation.
“It means a lot to me to get the degree in-person. When the Covid pandemic was at its peak, we never thought this would be possible.”
The maths graduate was celebrating both his graduation and also his admission to the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU in the US, where he will study for a PhD.
Indian student Mohammad Yasser, 22, was thrilled to receive his bachelor’s degree in physics with a minor in philosophy.
He said that many of his friends had been clinging to the hope of a face-to-face graduation this year.
“It came as a great surprise that we could have an in-person graduation ceremony. There were lots of hopes on the line,” Mr Yasser said.
“We could see how much preparation had gone into this and had a rehearsal on Sunday. There was a lot of care put into this event and it was nice to have an in-person commencement.”
Mr Yasser will soon start work as a product manager at e-commerce company Noon in Dubai.
“Today marks an incredible personal milestone … You couldn’t have imagined that your college years would get caught up in a global pandemic, changing everything and making everything harder,” said keynote speaker Ellen Stofan.
“Yet here you are, in person, for the first time since Covid began. There is no better tribute to the challenges you have faced, than being able to hug your fellow classmates and share this with your family. You did it!”
NYUAD vice chancellor Mariet Westermann praised the students on their hard work, creativity and persistence.
“Your journey, class of 2022, has been enlightening in so many ways, to you, and to all of us who have come along with you,” Ms Westermann said.
"Your hard work, your creativity, and your persistence led us to your graduation, with all of us here to cheer your accomplishments. You, the class of 2022, made this day possible,”
A partnership between New York University and the Abu Dhabi government, NYU Abu Dhabi welcomed its inaugural class in 2010. The university now has more than 1,800 students.