Tips for your first 30 days as an NYU Abu Dhabi Student

How to beat stress, get organized, and make the most of your time as an NYU Abu Dhabi student

David Kerman
A nighttime shot of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus lit up, promoting community engagement through Autism Awareness Month.

So your first year is about to begin

I didn’t go to NYU – but I can relate to what some of our students feel upon arrival. When I stepped foot onto my alma mater’s campus, I felt… paralyzed. I was anxious to get started, but also wanted to maximize every opportunity that was available to me. With NYU Abu Dhabi being such a unique experience, many of our students feel that same sense of paralysis when they begin their first year. They often ask us for tips, tricks, and advice for how to make the most of their time with us. How do you make sure you’re on the right track? What’s the best way to start building community? How many SIGs should you join?  Today, with the challenges that COVID-19 now presents, navigating the transition to college is more difficult than ever.
To aid in your transition, I’ve got your top five tips for your first 30 days as an NYU Abu Dhabi student. Remember these when you start college, and you’ll be in tip top shape to hit the ground running!
NYU Abu Dhabi students.

Slow down—and breathe

Firstly, I know that transitioning to university can be overwhelming in and of itself. You’re likely in a new educational system and unsure of what to expect. Maybe you’re living away from your family for the first time, or you have apprehensions about navigating the time distance if you’re studying remotely. You may also be preparing to dive into a new culture, language, and city.

There’s a lot to navigate – and Marhaba will help you do so! – but it’s important to remain grounded. With all of these changes, it’s easy (and natural) to feel overwhelmed or nervous. Remember to practice self-care; carve out time to check in with yourself. Maybe you’ll start each day by writing in a journal, or going for a (socially distant) run. No matter what “self-care” means to you, incorporating it into your daily routine from the start will make life far less stressful down the road.

Don’t be afraid to try things

Remember this: everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is eager to make new friends, to find their community, and to become the best version of themselves. While some students will be on campus this fall, most of our students will be studying remotely. You won’t be alone in navigating the virtual space. We’re ensuring that we keep everyone connected regardless of where you’re located! Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice, to make new connections, and to learn more about the UAE and your classmates. We’re an incredibly diverse place with a wide array of global narratives at your fingertips. But in order to take advantage of the world being just a Zoom call away, you need to take action. Do things that scare you and remember that there’s no such thing as a “stupid question.”

NYUAD flyers lift

When it comes to SIGs, less is more

Students often ask how many SIGs (student interest groups) they should join when they arrive. My advice is always the same – less is more. This is especially true now that your studies will be virtual. We find that students tend to bite off more than they can chew upon starting. They put their name down for every SIG that sounds interesting and then within a few weeks, they’re inundated with emails and obligations. Don’t get ahead of yourself!

We’re still organizing how to keep everyone engaged in organizations and activities regardless of where they’re located. When the time comes, only pick a few that sound the most interesting and see where that takes you. You can always join more next semester or next year! If you find that you have the capacity and drive to do more next semester, there will be many new activities for you to take part in.

Plan your academic experience

Perhaps you’re thinking about pursuing a double major. Or a major and two minors. Or a minor that’s in New York or Shanghai which might necessitate that you study away for an entire year. Regardless of the path you choose to take, we absolutely recommend that you create a four-year “plan of study.” In that plan, you can map out the courses that you need (and want) to take, the terms in which you plan to study away, and any terms in which you might want to focus on internships or research. Creating a plan will allow you to capture all the experiences that you’re hoping to take advantage of throughout your four years.
One great tool in creating your plan is the Academic Bulletin. It will outline your requirements for both your major and the Core Curriculum. Can your plan change? Absolutely. Can you do it even if you’re unsure of what your major will be? For sure! Your plan will likely change as you grow. Do also bear in mind that your schedule is flexible. If there’s a required course that you thought you needed to take in your first term, but you’re studying remotely and the only time that it’s offered would be 2:00am in your local timezone – don’t push it. Push that course to a later term, and opt for another course now. Feel free to take ownership over your schedule – just keep your advisor in the loop!
Aerial of the Abu Dhabi shoreline.

Come and go, but be mindful

Lastly, out of each of these tips, I can’t emphasize this one enough. Students who are living on campus will find that our facilities are comfortable. Almost everything you need is right there at your fingertips (yes, there’s a hair salon on the perimeter of campus). But when our leaders designed this experience, they never intended for you to isolate yourself from the city. Most of our students are not only new to Abu Dhabi, they’re new to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is an exceedingly diverse, vibrant, and energetic country with an incredible array of opportunities for you to explore.

If public health guidelines allow it by the time you arrive, then go off-campus for a bite to eat. Spend a weekend in Ras Al Khaimah (where you’ll find the world’s longest zip line). Go to a concert in Dubai. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your studies that you forget to appreciate where you are – but don’t.

If you’re studying virtually, I would highly recommend that you use the internet to stay connected with our area. Start choosing publications like The National as part of your daily news feed. Talk to your classmates about what it’s like to live and learn in your respective regions. Use YouTube and other social media platforms to prepare for your arrival and how you’ll want to spend your time here. While it might feel like eons until you’re able to join us in person, there will come a day when your four years with us feel like they flew by. Cherish them – even if you have to do it from afar for just a little while longer!

You're going to do great things!

I know that transitioning from high school to university can be met with nerves and anxiety. But don’t worry —you were admitted for a reason! Heed this tips, and you’ll do great things. Oh, and at your first breakfast in D2 (whenever that ends up being), try the cheese manakeesh. It’s my favorite!