My Semester Abroad at NYU Abu Dhabi

A photo of Cordelia Kwon

Another campus, one NYU

A sign reading #myNYUAD sits in front palm trees in the NYU Abu Dhabi courtyard

Last semester, I studied away at NYU Abu Dhabi. For those of you who don’t know, NYU has three four-year degree-granting campuses: New York City, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. An incredibly unique opportunity to NYU, I would recommend that any student try to spend some time at one of these campuses.

Going to a full campus, where many students have been for a couple years, brings a lot to the table. Of course, it’s also very different. NYU Abu Dhabi has a greater international population (in fact, there’s no country majority). It’s a smaller campus than NYU New York City, situated on an island (in the Arabian Gulf!). This means that going there, you honestly get a more traditional, small-liberal arts education. Everyone on campus knows each other, there is tighter competition, and that can feel a little daunting coming from New York. While those are all important elements when considering going to Abu Dhabi, there are also a lot of other really amazing aspects that I want to share with you.

The Food

An assortment of Indian food from Foodlands
A place called Foodlands, with lots of Indian snack/street food

Go to NYUAD for some of the best Indian/Pakistani food you will ever have, both in the dining hall and in restaurants in the city. Given the large amount of expats, you can find almost every kind of food in the city. (I’m half-Korean, so finding Hankook, the Korean restaurant, made me feel like I was in my aunt’s home).


The Roman ruins of Jerash
The Roman ruins of Jerash in Jordan (I went for a weekend)
The fjords of Oman
The fjords of Oman, where we went with NYU's Office of Global Programs

I got to travel to Dubai and Oman, sponsored by NYUAD Global Programs. On my own, I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey; Jordan; and Morocco. Travel to many of those places was very cheap from Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates in general. It’s not an area of the world that is easily accessible from all places either. The other Emirates, especially Sharjah, are incredible places to visit as well.

The Academics

While just as rigorous as being in New York (so not exactly the study away myth you’ve heard) the classes here are unique to Abu Dhabi. My favorite was called Contemporary Art and Politics, a class which I couldn’t take in New York City. The professors all have interesting, impactful research, which they often offer paid student assistantships to help out. Since it is a full campus, it is more likely that you can fulfill major requirements and even core requirements here.

The People

Cordelia and several other Abu Dhabi students smile for a photo

I bring this up last because, to me, it’s the most important. It’s really easy to make strong connections with the other visiting students from NYU New York—I know I did. You’re all in the same place, you have similar interests. Because of that, it’s also easy to focus on the differences between the Abu Dhabi campus and the New York campus: the smaller communities, the tighter friend groups, and everything else I mentioned early. However, there is something really incredible about what NYU has set out to do with the Abu Dhabi campus as well as NYU Shanghai. Even though I was in a completely different environment, I still felt as though the students were NYU students—no different than New York students. There is a drive to push ourselves and others, which includes both academic ambition and awareness of social issues. I met incredible people both inside and outside my classes.

I wouldn’t trade my experience in Abu Dhabi, with all the ups and downs. I’m not going to say the cliched “it changed my life.” I don’t think it was quite that consequential. It was in the little ways that I think about the world differently, or things I no longer take for granted that my time abroad effected me. That being said, I’m happy to be back in New York this semester, appreciating it even more right now, before I fly off to Sydney in the fall.


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