ABU DHABI // The first intake of students at New York University Abu Dhabi’s new Saadiyat Island campus has begun its first week of classes.
There was a sense of excitement on the campus on Monday as students congregated after a week of orientation to start their four-year undergraduate degrees.
Staff members were keen to laud the diverse student body, which hailed from 60 different countries and spoke more than 100 languages. Examples of this multiculturalism included Sangeetha Mahadevan, Indian born and raised in Oman, and Mohammad Mirza, a Pakistani who had studied the British A-Level system.
Both said they were happy to be studying together, despite the sometimes tense relations between their countries.
“She is Indian and I am Pakistani. If we weren’t in NYUAD we wouldn’t be able to discuss and share our thoughts, but here we are,” said Mr Mirza.
Mr Mirza left Karachi to study for his A-Levels in Abu Dhabi. He said the orientation week had made students feel welcome, and had helped build a sense of community among them. “The best part is that there are so many different and culturally diverse people. It’s good for you because when you’re in the classroom, everyone shares their perspective and it’s usually quite different from yours. You tend to think about that when you meet people from all over the world.”
Ms Mahadevan said socialising with so many different nationalities was an enlightening experience.
“I get to do a case study every day. I learn so much from so many different cultures and I’m actually able to apply it in so many different ways. There’s a lot of open discussion that adds so much to our education,” said the psychology student.
While she admitted she might succumb to homesickness at some point, the feelings were alleviated by the hospitable attitude of staff and students.
Some students, however, didn’t have to travel far to attend their dream school. Hayat Hassan, an Emirati from Dubai, said she wanted to attend NYUAD from the moment she saw an open house presentation in her school.
“I was blown away from that day, I told my mum I want to go to that university,” she said.
“They asked me why this university when there are alternatives. As they got to know it day-by-day and especially by the candidate weekend, they were also blown away.”
Al Bloom, the vice chancellor of NYUAD, believed that the environment at the university would prepare students for leadership roles in the future. He said the idea of creating a community is at the heart of the educational experience – both the community inside the university and UAE society at large.