24 Subjects! Choosing Your Major at NYU Abu Dhabi

Four student voices help you create the perfect academic recipe

Students in a spice market.

If you’ve seen any cooking reality show, you’ve witnessed the pressure of assembling a meal with too many items. Choosing your major at NYU Abu Dhabi while navigating hundreds of classes across the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering can also be daunting. Mixing and matching courses from 24 diverse majors will certainly add spice to your student life! To ease the process, four current NYU Abu Dhabi students share their wise advice. Read more to find out how to pick the right mix of ingredients for your unique university recipe.

It’s OK to Change Your Mind

Olives in a teacup.

Growing up, I hated olives. My parents despaired as we lived in a place famous for its tiny black olives. Now, I adore them, especially bright green Nocellara olives. Tastes change! Similarly, all NYU Abu Dhabi students interviewed for this piece ended up choosing a different major than what they aspired to do when they started university.

Being open to change and listening to her instincts helped Seleen make the right decision

Seleen, Class of 2022, originally came to NYU Abu Dhabi planning to pursue a Chemistry major. “It was my dream to become a forensic scientist. After a thorough read through of the NYU Abu Dhabi bulletin, I concluded that the courses’ descriptions required for the major didn’t make me as happy as I had hoped.” How did she decide on her current Biology major? “The summer after my first year, I was lucky to experience a biotechnology internship in a center here in Abu Dhabi. I just fell in love with it.”

It’s OK to Try New Things

A hand holding two sushi rolls.

I love to stop by food counters in Japanese department stores. They always very kindly give you samples of everything on display. It’s exciting to discover so many fresh new tastes! The liberal arts–style education at NYU Abu Dhabi allows you to do just that. As you only need to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year, you can—on top of the Core Curriculum—take classes across diverse disciplines until you refine your specific area of interest.

By exploring a new subject, even at introductory level, Tom finally found his true passion

Tom, Class of 2021, had an incredible journey to find his major. He came to NYU Abu Dhabi thinking about majoring in Mathematics or Engineering then began taking Foundations of Science courses. As Tom enjoyed physics and chemistry, he thought he had settled on science. He didn’t enjoy lab work however so switched to computer science in the fall of his sophomore year.

“During that semester,” Tom says, “I also enrolled in Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature as an elective.… As a result, I switched majors to Literature and Creative Writing. Two semesters in, I’m enjoying it very much and have no regrets whatsoever. I also do not regret taking science courses during my first few semesters. I definitely learned a lot and was challenged in different ways compared to the humanities.”

It’s OK to Have More Than One Interest

Rows of spices.

I love coriander (or cilantro, if you wish). Also favored are nutmeg, zaatar, and celery salt. And I can have it all!  Though maybe not in the same dish.

At NYU Abu Dhabi, multidisciplinary minors embolden students to think about complex topics from a variety of perspectives. Student Alia, Class of 2020, is majoring in Computer Science. “It had applications in a very diverse set of fields (social sciences, arts, etc.). I also wanted to explore the greater flexibility to take more general electives and minors.” NYU Abu Dhabi students are also able to complete minors during their study away experiences. They have access to a large variety of electives taken around the New York City and Shanghai campuses as well as the 12 NYU global sites.

Segun, Class of 2021, took on the challenge of being a double major in Political Science and Legal Studies

When Segun joined NYU Abu Dhabi, he leaned more toward theatre and film. He was also torn between multiple interests, including politics and law. After taking the initial courses in his first year, he realized that he preferred “a very independent and DIY approach to theatre and film.” He then added a minor in Theatre to his portfolio. “A lot of my free extra-curricular time goes into engaging with experiences in performance and film. I’m loving it! Because of how open, receptive, and supportive the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center is, the majors I eventually selected in no way restricted me from experiencing theatre and film in the way I envisioned when enrolling in NYU Abu Dhabi.”

It’s OK to Shape Your Own Path…and Get Help Along the Way

Dish of paneer.

I grew up in a culture that does not understand spicy food. To this day, I prefer flavor over spice. Still, the gentle persuasion and culinary talents of Indian friends eventually allowed me to discover many favorite new dishes. Peer pressure can make you think you too have to be an engineer, an economist, or a filmmaker. You feel you need to be just like the people around you. At NYU Abu Dhabi, you will be encouraged to be yourself when choosing a major in a subject that resonates with YOU—and not anyone else.

“Seek advice but value your own experiences too.”—Alia, Class of 2020

When choosing his unique combination of subjects, Segun spoke with upperclass students, his academic mentor, and the heads of departments in his fields of interest. “All parties were very engaged in the process and offered invaluable insight to assist me. Having all these resources available made approaching the decision less daunting as I had support and guidance every step of the way.”

Seleen felt that the “professors at NYU Abu Dhabi explained to me how careers look like within the sciences, which definitely gave me that last piece of strength to switch majors.” She was impressed by the openness of the faculty. “They were all so excited to tell me their experiences and to help me out with my decisions. Honestly, there is no one better that can give you advice than the professionals themselves. They are right within fingertip reach.”

Alia also spoke with seniors who “had a more complete experience and could provide me with insight.” She advises to “talk to students about their thoughts and experiences but make sure to keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different. Just because something worked out (or didn’t) for someone doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you.”

It’s OK to Take Your Time…and Then Be Decisive

Aerial shot of multiple cups of coffee.

Like slowly sipping a good cup of coffee or letting a good vegetable stew simmer for hours, choosing your major at NYU Abu Dhabi can take time. This development period can be fun, a period of growth and change. It can also be stressful.

Our Four Students Give You Advice on How to Make the Final Leap and Be Resolute

Segun recommends to not rush yourself. “Don’t feel pressured to shut down the possibility of three or four majors without doing any sort of due diligence,” he says. “NYU Abu Dhabi is very supportive. You can cater to each one of your interests without substantially compromising whatever the end result will be.”

Similarly, Alia says she wishes she’d wasted less time stressing out about not knowing what her major was going to be. “As a first year, I had time to figure things out, take classes, talk to professors, and find out what I really wanted to do but not knowing that scared me a lot in the process.”

Tom would “encourage students to be open to exploring different majors and not to force themselves into a major they don’t enjoy.” He also remarks that, if hesitating between two majors, you should begin by exploring the one with the most requirements so that if you need to switch out, there is less of a strain.

Finally, Seleen advises to never think that you are not good enough for a certain major. “Never choose a major over another just because you think you won’t be able to do it. It’s not fair to not even give yourself the opportunity to try what you love to do without being so hard on yourself.”

Before being in the enviable position of having to make these choices, you do have to apply and be admitted into NYU Abu Dhabi!

Don’t forget that our next deadlines—Early Decision II and Regular Decision—fall on January 1, 2020.

Pro tip: apply a few days earlier so you don’t panic and miss out if facing a technical difficulty on deadline day.