Stefan Mitikj, an NYU Abu Dhabi alum, sits in front of a laptop with a book in his hands.

Stefan Mitikj believes that things happen for a reason. When he first learned about NYU Abu Dhabi, he was drawn in by everything the University could offer. He was interested in research and study away opportunities as well as world-class professors and classes. In his four years as an NYU student, Stefan—originally from Skopje, North Macedonia—took advantage of NYU Abu Dhabi’s opportunities and resources to push himself to new limits. On his journey double-majoring in Political Science and Social Research and Public Policy, he turned to tools like cultural appreciation, altruism, and leadership to find community and make a difference.

Stefan Mitikj and two other NYU Abu Dhabi students sitting together, engaged in conversation.

Culture and Caring

Many of the student groups Stefan participated in at NYU Abu Dhabi centered on culture. He was a treasurer for the UAE Majlis, which shares United Arab Emirates traditions with international students. He was also the president of the South Slavic Club, which represents people from the Balkans. One of the club’s events Stefan was most excited to host was a re-creation of a traditional Easter dinner.

“I feel like that’s an important part of my identity. Both nurturing my Balkan heritage and learning more about the Emirati experience in general,” Stefan says. “Students benefit from learning about the culture here. It incorporates a lot of things: tradition, food, friendship, and participation in the events. It’s a really nice experience.”

Stefan was committed to giving back to the NYU community. He took on the role of student embassy ambassador liaison between the Embassy of North Macedonia in Abu Dhabi and NYU Abu Dhabi. In this role he helped strengthen the collaborative bond and work opportunities between the two. He planted mangroves in Jubail Mangrove Park and fundraised for the American Community School of Abu Dhabi. He also joined NYU Abu Dhabi’s Effective Altruism Chapter, which focuses on using resources to benefit others.

“I think that really gave me perspective on how I can become the best version of myself while helping others,” Stefan reflects. “And you can’t find those opportunities any place other than this university.”

“That’s the beauty of NYU—the fact that you can take classes that are outside the scope of your major, but you still get to learn a lot from them and apply those concepts in your trajectory as you go.”

—Stefan Mitikj

Three students walking around on NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus.

Learning to Lead

During his junior year, Stefan studied away at NYU Washington, DC, as part of the Global Leadership Scholars Program. There, he took an intensive leadership course. He also studied journalism, architecture, and psychology. During a January Term at NYU Accra, Stefan took a class exploring the slave trade. “That’s the beauty of NYU—the fact that you can take classes that are outside the scope of your major, but you still get to learn a lot from them and apply those concepts in your trajectory as you go,” he says.

Stefan also used his time abroad to pursue his interest in politics. He joined the student government at NYU Washington, DC, and became an NYU Washington, DC, representative for the Student Government Assembly in New York City.

When Stefan returned to Abu Dhabi to complete his major—and senior Capstone Project examining clickbait and digital literacy in Germany—he continued to lead. He was the social sciences representative for undergraduates on campus. “I think the students are what drive the University,” he says. “There’s a stark difference between five years ago, seven years ago, and right now. It’s amazing, and it’s all because of students and what they feel is most needed at the moment.”

This May, Stefan finished his leadership journey at NYU Abu Dhabi as the commencement student speaker. Now, postgraduation, he hopes to continue his educational journey in graduate school for public administration, learning more about education policy in New York City, London, and Shanghai.