When Yusril Nurhidayat arrived at NYU Abu Dhabi from his hometown of Makassar, Indonesia, he thought he would major in Biology or pursue prehealth because of his interest in science. However, his first-year writing seminar, The Politics of Spectacle, with Professor Samuel Mark Anderson made him aware that his interests were more multifaceted and interdisciplinary than he’d originally realized and could intersect in ways he never considered previously.

Yusril Nurhidayat, an interdisciplinary student at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Real Experience Results in Big Change

For his final paper in The Politics of Spectacle, Yusril wrote about the use of theatre in reconciling postgenocide Rwandan society. It was the first experience that made Yusril realize his passion for the social sciences and consider a transition away from the hard sciences. “I took the class and decided to change my major,” says Yusril, who also traveled to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to continue his research on Rwandan reconciliation. “It was one of the driving forces that had me switch from science to social science.”

“Professor Anderson guided me to do more with the paper,” says Yusril, who is still working with Professor Anderson as his Capstone advisee and protégé. The Capstone Project is one of the culminating experiences for every student at NYU Abu Dhabi. This demanding, yearlong experience requires each student to create a significant piece of research or creative work.

New Directions at Every Turn

Though Yusril anticipated expanding the final paper into his Capstone, studying abroad at NYU Berlin in spring 2020 gave him another direction. “I joined a community theatre group where all the actors were migrants at some point in their lives,” he says. “It sparked my interest in how they used theatre to sustain their lives in a city that is as transient as Berlin.” When the COVID-19 pandemic forced all of Yusril’s classes online, he pivoted and took an internship with Social Science Works in Potsdam. While interning there, he began the interdisciplinary work on the project that is now his Capstone.

One Question, Many Implications

During the internship, Yusril worked on an integration course that is offered to most refugees who migrate to Germany. While working on the logistics and planning for the course, he realized how much room there was to improve it. “Because I have such a strong passion for participatory theatre in the social process, I wondered why no one had created a more engaging and interactive process for integration,” he says. “My Capstone Project comes directly from that experience. I am trying to determine how the use of applied theatre can overcome the barriers to, and thereby foster, the refugee integration process in Germany.”

Beyond bringing together Yusril’s passion for the performing arts and social anthropology, his Capstone Project will likely have wider implications. “I’m going to use this Capstone as a foundation to write a policy recommendation for the Senate of Berlin or even the relevant authorities at the German national level,” he says. “And I want to continue to study these issues while pursuing a master’s degree in Social Anthropology.”

“Being in the UAE is so important to me. It’s an incredible place, and being here is not just being at NYU, it’s being at NYU in Abu Dhabi. Being at a school like NYU in such a powerful and rapidly growing region is something I will cherish forever.” —Yusril Nurhidayat
It Couldn’t Have Happened Anywhere Else

Yusril credits NYU Abu Dhabi for helping him find and pursue his passions. “The diverse, interdisciplinary nature of the school is the number one thing I appreciate most. In my first year, I took a bioengineering class and a class called Making Theater, and I’ve followed that pattern ever since. Right now, I’m taking a class focused heavily on politics and an introductory course on German literature,” he says. Likewise, Yusril finds the diversity of the student body and their ideas to be vital to his education. “We’re talking about sitting at a dining hall table with 10 people from 10 different countries,” he says, “And you’re either discussing superhero movies or the situation in Afghanistan. What other college can offer you that?”