At NYU Abu Dhabi, Emirati Students Explore Close to Home

A portrait of Sara Almarzooqi on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus

Stay close to family or broaden her worldview? Stick with the sciences, or keep her options open? For Emirati student Sara Almarzooqi, ’22, these questions were top of mind as she considered colleges. By becoming an NYU Abu Dhabi student, she realized that the University would help her tie together dualities in herself and her interests.

She first learned about the school during a leadership development program for young girls. Then in 2016 she gained acceptance into the Sheikh Mohamed Scholarship Program for Outstanding High School Students Summer Academy. It was there that she had the opportunity to study at NYU in New York City and Florence. This program solidified her desire for a liberal arts curriculum, and she applied to NYU Abu Dhabi shortly after.

Sticking Close to Home vs. Expanding Your Worldview

The University met all her criteria for where she wanted to go to college. “Being Emirati, I personally hold a lot of familial values. Mainly, this means that I wanted to stay close enough to my family to be able to visit them on weekends,” Sara says. “However, I also wanted to experience something new that would take the diversity I saw every so often in Abu Dhabi to the extreme. That’s when I knew NYU Abu Dhabi was for me. It is a small international community that brings together a myriad of diverse opinions and values while on campus or even abroad at any study away site.”

For Sara, staying close to her family while still accessing the tremendous diversity and resources that NYU has to offer was ideal. Likewise, the liberal arts curriculum at NYU Abu Dhabi checked all the boxes for what she was looking for in an academic experience. “NYU Abu Dhabi’s Core Colloquia gave me a chance to explore beyond my major,” she says. “Deeply connecting with topics I wouldn’t normally look at broadened my worldview.” Similarly, the small class sizes meant Sara and her classmates built relationships with their professors and engaged more deeply with the course topics.

A group shot of Sara and her classmates

STEM vs. Social Sciences

Coming to NYU Abu Dhabi, Sara knew she wanted to pursue one of the natural sciences. She was initially set on majoring in physics. But while taking a wider array of classes, she realized that biology was actually the right fit for her. “Some of my colloquia covered topics related to biology, which helped me decide on my switch. Because I wasn’t required to declare my major until the end of my second year, I also took the time to explore some social science courses, to see if I had any interest in that field,” she says. “I ultimately went with biology. But the exploration was important for me.”

Sara also found that the liberal arts approach to learning brought together her interest in STEM and the social sciences. One such course that helped clarify her path? Conserving Our Global Heritage through Science. The course asks if a better understanding of our shared heritage can help us address today’s cultural differences. It also examines how scientific methods can help preserve global heritage for future generations. Bringing together both social and natural sciences, Sara explored the history and science behind art works, architecture, and artifacts to put everything into a historical and global context.

Keeping an Open Mind

Now that she has identified and explored these dualities within herself and her interests, Sara is looking toward the future. Though she’s still not set on a specific plan, she looks forward to keeping her options open and exploring the academics that interest her. “The defining moment is probably going to be my capstone seminar,” she says. “I am hoping that I’ll find a topic I really love, and carry that with me into the field or on to graduate school.”