NYUAD flyers

Encouraging a vibrant and active campus life, NYU Abu Dhabi hosts over 75 official student clubs. They are also known as “Student Interest Groups” or SIGs. These groups cover areas like international cultures, professional and personal development, hobbies, or community engagement.

When you arrive in Abu Dhabi, everything might be new and shiny. Selecting which clubs you will want to contribute to could be quite the challenge!

Based on recent conversations with NYU Abu Dhabi students, here are five tips to help you navigate the SIG world on campus.

NYUAD bahara
Quiet Bahara (NYUAD student lounge)

1. Let go of FOMO

Class of 2022 student Seleen recalls that during her first semester at NYUAD, she was “overwhelmed by choice.” Then she attended the SIG Fair. Each semester, this club fair allows students to get a taste of the SIG’s activities while learning how to become an active member. The fair offers a great opportunity to browse through a variety of groups and engage in person with classmates who are passionate about certain topics or cultures. This will help you select what’s right for you.

Peer pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out) are real. But the hard truth is you won’t physically or mentally be able to sign up for all of the clubs. You will sometimes have to miss events, connections, and fun times. You might not even join the same SIGs as your best friend or your roommate—even though they may beg you to come with them.

PRO TIP: Missing out is OK! There are only 24 hours in a day

You will have four years to explore the world around you. While they may fly by, they will also offer ample time to engage in all sorts of SIG activities at your own pace.

NYUAD painter
Painter on NYUAD campus

2. Find the right balance in your commitment

You’ve now found a few clubs you’re excited about. You’ve been connecting with new people, sharing your passions or culture. Maybe you discovered interests and ideas you did not know existed. While gaining leadership, organizational, and communication skills, you’re making your mark on the NYU Abu Dhabi community.

All of these activities will demand a lot of time and energy. It would be easy to over-commit yourself and burn out.

It can also be hard for some clubs to keep “gathering momentum,” senior Alia ElKattan says. Many members “study away so it’s hard to find people who will have longevity in the club.” SIGs need “solid transitions” between years and even semesters.

PRO-TIP: Only commit to a SIG if you can dedicate the right amount of time to the club’s running and activities

If you can’t, that’s not a problem. Not everyone needs to be on the board of a SIG! You can always do your bit and boost a group’s attendance numbers by regularly going to events.

Additionally, your relationship to SIGs may vary throughout your four years at NYU Abu Dhabi. First and second year students tend to be more involved. It’s great when they get on board early on! Meanwhile, third and fourth years tend to be busier. They juggle academics, travel, and study away (you can join clubs abroad too), and Capstone Projects. They’re applying for jobs or graduate school as well!

NYUAD origami
Origami at Asia-Pacific Night 2019

3. Invest in your own passions

An incredible opportunity you can have at NYU Abu Dhabi would be to create your own student club.

Current senior Gladys recalls two recent SIGs that were inspired by a couple of students’ passions: a baking SIG and a fashion SIG. If enough students support these new groups, then funding can be found to develop more activities.

PRO-TIP: A catchy, fun name can be the key to attracting people’s attention to a new SIG in a crowded club landscape

For example, Cake Up, the baking SIG, and ADvocacy, Ecoherence, and Spacious, a mindfulness group, come to mind. After that, budgeting well is also very important for student clubs as they get a new budget every semester. If a club combines spending their budget well with high attendance, they could see an increase in funds the following semester.

Not everyone will want to create a new club and, sometimes, happiness is simply something that feels familiar. Something you are already passionate about. Class of 2022 student Aayush is busy managing the school’s dragon boat team and playing touch rugby. He’s also an Admissions Office intern and works in the Plastics Lab. Still, he’s not letting go of his roots. He’s attending events from South East Asia SIG Tashan, such as the Holi and Diwali festivals. He turns up for gully cricket and truck painting activities from the Pakistani Student Association. “It connects me to home,” says Aayush.

drums at NYUAD
Music at Layali Arab Night 2019

4. Stretch yourself!

The student clubs at NYU Abu Dhabi also offer you the opportunity to try new pastimes and interests. You will discover things you didn’t know you’d like or be good at. SIGs are also very versatile and eager to improve.

Gladys remembers a Tea Cult group that was created for those who enjoy tea. Going beyond the basic vision it was founded on however, this SIG’s members found themselves engaged in meaningful conversations with people from around the world. They ended up talking about many more issues beyond tea.

A member of the Africa Global SIG, Gladys is very proud of this cultural group. It aims at “helping students who are not from that region learn about it.” She is very specific about the mission of this inclusive club: “Everyone can join; we are not exclusive.” Members want to break stereotypes and engage the rest of the student body through round-table discussions and cultural events.

PRO-TIP: Don’t be shy, try! Join a regional club from a culture that you know little about. Take a shot at a new hobby.

Clubs can also challenge you in ways you never expected. Seleen lived in Abu Dhabi her entire life. Still, exploring the food cultures of the city via SIG events “Opened me up to many things I did not know,” she says.  The Abu Dhabi campus is very diverse. “You can be lost in the culture of the home country but there is also a sense of your community here,” she says.

Seleen was very proud of the Arab Culture Club’s Layali Night, hosted in 2019. I had the chance to attend this event, and between delicious food and excellent dance performances, I felt welcome, educated, and entertained. Still, the club is not resting on its laurels. This year, Layali will push boundaries and include more North African and Afro-Arab participants and activities in an effort to include, inform, and be fun at the same time.

NYUAD Mind Body School Program
Mind Body School Program at NYUAD

5. Be confident to go beyond SIGs

There is a lot going on at NYU Abu Dhabi. Many students are engaged in a variety of activities, beyond classroom and clubs. As a result, they may even run out of time to participate in SIGs!

In her early days at NYU Abu Dhabi, Class of 2020 student Aigul engaged with the Chinese Culture SIG. She also attended popular events such as Latino Night, Diwali, and the Pakistani Mock-Wedding. Plus, as a member of the Consulting and Business & Finance societies, she met with numerous industry people.

Still, Aigul decided not to sit on the board of any NYUAD group. She found herself already incredibly busy, working on campus being an intern in the Admissions Office. She also did an internship with Public Affairs. After that, she started working for the Akkasah: Centre For Photography. There she oversaw the digital scanning of a database of Middle Eastern photographs, executing translations, and getting materials ready for publication. She eventually explored her passion for photography further by becoming a photographer for the Athletics Team.

Similarly, Aayush saw a chance to do good by participating in other campus activities. Via the NYUAD Office of Community Outreach, he took part in the BEN education group or taught NYUAD contract workers through community development actions. Aigul and Aayush are no exception at NYU Abu Dhabi. Our students tend to be very proactive and engaged in the world around them.

FINAL PRO-TIP: If you are excited at the idea of having a strong impact, on your own community and in the real world, NYU Abu Dhabi might be the school for you!

Lisa is a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for NYU Abu Dhabi and the Global Admissions Team, based in the London office.
Born and raised in France, Lisa also lived in Denmark and spent a couple of years in leafy upstate New York.  She is a dedicated gardener, a keen traveler to India and Japan, and loves watching the tennis at Wimbledon. She now spends her free time playing with her little rescue terrier dog, Cooper.