Education Without Borders: The NYU Abu Dhabi Experience

NYU Abu Dhabi offers a unique global education with learning outside the classroom at the heart of it

Why Choose NYU Abu Dhabi?

Too many roads diverged in a wood—a wood that has thousands of different colleges and reasons to choose one over the other. Do you pick a campus close to home or far away? A campus with a small student population or a large one? A research- or liberal arts–based institution? Here, I will help you figure out why you should take the road less traveled by highlighting unique aspects of the NYU Abu Dhabi experience.

NYU Abu Dhabi students.

What It’s Like Here

NYU Abu Dhabi opened its doors in 2010 as the University’s second degree-granting campus. Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is a rising and prominent hub for arts, culture, and education as well as commerce and research. Our campus is ideally located near the majority of NYU’s global academic sites such as Accra, Madrid, and Prague. People from all over the world have made their home here—Emiratis account for only 10 percent of the city’s population, so it’s a truly diverse, global place to study.

Similarly, the NYU Abu Dhabi campus currently has just under 1,900 students from over 100 different countries. Students are guaranteed housing throughout their four years, and the Office of Residential Education makes sure no students from the same country are put in the same room during their first year. Almost all of the faculty live on campus as well, so the learning and interaction takes places just as much outside of the classroom as it does inside. This is where the University’s uniqueness really shines through.

NYU Abu Dhabi student, Al Reem Al Beshr, and professor, Bryan Waterman.

Learning Outside the Classroom: Through Faculty and Friends

The diversity at NYU Abu Dhabi is more than just a measure of the passports on campus, though. Students come from different educational backgrounds, socioeconomic circumstances, and multifaith spiritualities. Due to the nature of the tight-knit community, small classroom sizes, and intentionality with which our campus and student life offices offer programming for this integration, you will directly encounter this variety of perspective on a daily basis.

Your morning conversations with faculty members while waiting in line for your Starbucks coffee can lead to an opportunity for research. One of the trips into the city organized by your dorm’s residential assistant can establish a connection for some community volunteering work you have been interested in. A class on modern Arabic politics can help you unravel the intricacies of the current geopolitical dynamic by exposing you to the viewpoints of students who lived through revolutions and experienced the challenges their countries face.

All of this is more than what a book can provide. And it is around you all the time, as you are immersed in an environment where every social or academic interaction can profoundly influence your point of view on life, yourself, and the world around you.

A signpost pointing to the NYU global academic locations.

Learning Outside the Classroom: Through Travel

The NYU study abroad component is an essential and transformative experience. Students at different institutions sometimes have the option to study away but nothing to the extent NYU offers.

At NYU Buenos Aires, you can brush up on your Spanish, gain further insight into the political economy, and really immerse yourself in the culture and history. At NYU Sydney, you can go diving at the Great Barrier Reef, delve deeper into environmental studies, and unearth Australia’s rich oral history and cultural traditions by learning about its Indigenous roots. NYU Madrid has a niche program that also wants to bring the individual stories of its people to life through film and narrative. As a student of the Madrid Stories course, you will research, interview, and direct a film of a topic of your choosing that highlights a unique aspect of life there. This is just a taste of the 12 NYU academic sites and the innumerable opportunities for you to explore different cities, transform your viewpoint of the world around you, and forge a personalized academic pathway through our global network.

And if that’s not enough, students can partake in three January Terms throughout their four years. One of the J Term classes can be done abroad at our 12 global sites, one should be taken in Abu Dhabi, and the third is in Abu Dhabi but also has a travel component. You can start by taking Professor Patrick Egan’s class on US politics and policy, meeting policymakers daily and interacting with the material you are studying through the people you are learning about. You can explore the international culinary cuisine that Abu Dhabi offers through Food in the Global Kitchen. Throughout the class, you travel and taste your way through Abu Dhabi, drawing connections between and understanding the dynamism of the city and its diverse people.

NYU Stern students and the Woadze Tsatoe community members share ideas for sustainable business ventures to help support the Ghanaian village’s economic growth.

Learning Outside the Classroom: Through Community-Based Programming

From the examples above, you can understand that our model of global education is more than just an opportunity to study away. These classes provide a chance to interact with your surroundings in order to bring life to what you are studying in the classroom. This model is designed to encourage you to engage with the world around you and provide you with an education rooted in community-based learning.

Technology can positively influence the well-being of communities affected by issues such as water scarcity, congestion, and pollution. However, these technologies cannot be implemented without first understanding their socioeconomic, ethical, and diplomatic ripple effects.

The Engineers for Social Impact program allows students to come up with and implement solutions for issues a community faces while having that community’s direct interest and say in the matter. Students learn to fact-find, listen, and understand the challenges from perspectives they might not have factored in before. Some considerations include the sustainability of materials and ease of importing them and the ethical implications of biological processes in a spiritual community. This increases our students’ contextual awareness of modern-day problems from a multifaceted angle, making them more effective and beneficial decision-makers across disciplines and around the world.

Our three-week Emirati Arabic in Al Ain course is another way students can experience learning in the community. Students with a sufficient level of Arabic live with families in the Emirate of Al Ain to practice the local dialect. While there, students gain unique insights into the rich cultural traditions and history of the Emirati people. Spending time in the beautiful landscapes of Al Ain has led students to also enroll in Oasis, Coast, and Mountain, which examines the changing landscapes in the UAE and Oman from the perspectives of historical colonization, urban systems development, and global trade. Students interact with locals, hike through valleys to witness water scarcity, visit key sites, and learn about policy through informal lectures.

If That Is Not Enough…

The perks don’t stop there. You can earn credit toward a Master of Public Administration at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service through the dual-degree program offered through the Business, Organizations, and Society major at NYU Abu Dhabi. You can major in Legal Studies and minor in something like Business Studies in New York City. If you feel it’s important to be recognized and not have such a top-down functioning institution, then you can invite NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann on a stroll. If you feel music should be studied from a more ethnomusicological perspective, you stand to gain a unique experience from NYU Abu Dhabi’s global visiting artists and diverse student musicians. If you value collegial relationships between faculty and students and want to delve into their research and background, then our tight-knit residential-style campus allows for such interactions. If you like to tinker at random hours, then there’s no better place to do this than the Engineering Design Studio, which is open to students 24 hours a day. There, you’ll find students from all disciplines working together to come up with cross-disciplinary research and projects.

NYU Abu Dhabi might not be predictable and comfortable, but it’s definitely a place for a transformative educational adventure. Study here and you’ll gain more than a global mindset. You’ll be prepared to change the world.

The NYU Abu Dhabi campus lit up at night, promoting community engagement through Autism Awareness Month.