It’s April. Flowers are blooming and the air is getting warmer. But it is also the time of decisions for so many high school seniors. I remember the nervous thrill of opening those university application portals to read the letters, with both tissues and a cupcake by my side (to prepare myself for both possible outcomes). However, what comes after you read “We are pleased to offer you a spot…” is no less nerve-racking – what comes after will change the course of your next four years, the course of your academic trajectory forever. Huh, no biggie, right?

Trust me, I’ve been there. That is why, today, I want to tell you the story of my university decision and the myriad of reasons why that choice ultimately fell upon NYU Abu DhabiNYUAD was not my dream school. I got rejected from the university I had always thought of as “the one” and was left with a few choices, one of which was NYUAD.

In retrospect, as bittersweet as that period of time feels, going to NYUAD ended up being the best decision I could have ever made. 

Amina and 6 students crowd in for a selfie
me and some friends between classes on NYUAD's campus
1. Living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

I have always daydreamed about the possibility of living in different parts of the world but never did I think I could turn the daydreams into reality. I came from a tiny town in a tiny country and the opportunity to travel and live on a different continent seemed highly unlikely, untl … you guessed it, until I got admitted into NYUAD. One of my best friends, Marilena who is graduating NYUAD this year once told me that we tend to forget how amazing it is that we get to spend a part of our twenties in the Middle East.


She was so right. The cultural and linguistic immersion that the Emirates allowed me to plunge in is incomparable to anything I have experienced before. Living in Abu Dhabi inspired me to learn Arabic and educate myself on the myriad of cultural practices and the traditions around different Middle Eastern countries. It allowed me to shake off any misconceptions and stereotypes I had due to my highly Eurocentric educational background.

an Abu Dhabi sunset
living in abu dhabi means super pretty sunsets
Amina and a few friends are in a bright pink room in an art gallery
an Abu Dhabi art gallery with friends
2. Campus Community

Another highly important aspect of NYUAD is our tightknit community. Before moving into the dorm for my freshman year, I was scared about “fitting in” or finding “my” people. NYUAD is truly magical in this sense because it offers you the ability to socialize and mingle with different people without too much effort on your part. I don’t think I have enough finger to count the amount of people in my class who have found their close friends during an elevator ride or while in line to get their morning omellette. 


Plus, the student body at NYUAD represents more than 125 countries and there are more than 100 languages spoken on campus! It’s giving campus diversity. All jokes aside, the amount of different personalities, backgrounds and perspectives I have met at YUAD is beyond anything I had hoped for. It allowed me to practice empathy and understanding and I am proud to say that it molded me into a more open-minded person. 


Another perk of our campus community is our student-wide discussion portal that we call “Room of Requirement,” or, more casually, ROR. When I tell you you can find anything you want there, I’m not lying. Any questions from major requirements to professor ratings to advice for people settling in are likely to be found there and if you can’t see the answer you’re looking for, you can just post your own question and someone will answer withing 5 minutes! 


Amina and 3 friends in a coffee shop
friends! (at Blacksmith Coffee on NYUAD's campus)
Study-Away Opportunities

I will never stop talking about how great NYUAD is when it comes to travelling and studying abroad, whether it is for a semester, for a year or just for a month. I consider myself so lucky to be able to travel and live in cities like New York and Paris as part of my academic journey. Some of my friends have travelled to Ghana, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Prague – all thanks to NYUAD. 


To clarify, your academic journey at NYUAD involves two study-abroad opportunities, these are not necessarily 100% guaranteed but if you provide a reasonable academic reason, you’re good to go. I am currently on my first study-away in New York and I am going to Paris next semester, whereas one of my friends is spending an entire year in London and another on is going from Madrid to Los Angeles. How awesome? 


If that’s not enough, we also are given the chance to travel to another country for three weeks as part of our “J-term” course program. A J-term is a three-week course we take either in June or January and to graduate we need to fulfill three J-terms – one fully in Abu Dhabi, one in Abu Dhabi but with a trip abroad (usually about a week long), and one fully abroad. In the past, people have traveled to Thailand, Italy and India as part of their J-term one-week trip, and to countries like Argentina, Germany and the UK as part of the “fully abroad” term. Find out more here!

Amina in front of the NYC skyline
new york study away
Academic Environment

Growing up, it was always important for me to be academically challenged at any institution I would find myself at. Well, I found the perfect institution for that! NYUAD has an incredible selection of classes and majors. You can choose from STEM fields to Humanities to Social Sciences and our Core Curriculum adds so much flavor to our holistic education. I believe NYUAD epitomizes all the values of a liberal arts education. Although I am majoring in Arab Crossroads Studies and Political Science, I am also able to minor in Peace Studies and explore creative writing courses or learn about arts education in various parts of East Asia. 


Our small class sizes also facilitate a much better relationship with professors who tend to become our mentors. The professors I have had so far have always made time to welcome me for office hours and some kept in touch even after a year of having me in their class. Most of all, I love how passionate everyone is about the topic they’re teaching – it is truly inspiring!


Amina puts her feet up in a study lounge
studying in one of the floor lounges
Financial Realities

A big point for me when settling on a university was the financial aid package I would receive. Coming from a one-parent household, I knew I needed to be financially stable as a university student and NYUAD made that happen. 

Moreover, we have so many campus employment opportunities and a lot of students are able to secure a job within their first or second year. Therefore, NYUAD definitely makes it much easier to sustain a lifestyle of increased financial independence if that is what you are aiming for!

Amina and a friend on a boat
fun activities with friends

Before I leave you to make your decision, I want to add a thank you note to all the friends I have made so far at NYUAD or through NYUAD. They have all contributed so much to me growing as a human being in both professional and personal ways and I am so excited for whoever is reading this article to embark on a similar journey and I hope it will be at NYUAD! 


Amina’s home campus is NYU Abu Dhabi where she is pursuing a double major in Arab Crossroads Studies and Political Science with a Peace Studies minor, but she is originally from a tiny Eastern European country – the Republic of Moldova. She’s particularly interested in studying languages (she’s currently learning her fifth!) and in the intersection of education and conflict resolution studies. When she is not working, she loves exploring independent bookstores, looking for the next flower bouquet for her room, or sharing a cuddle with her dog.