The city of Abu Dhabi is home to over 1.4 million international residents with roots in every continent, making it a melting pot in the Middle East. But leaving one’s home far away for a city like Abu Dhabi is still a jarring transition. Junior Computer Science major Gabriel Garcia knows this well. “I spent my entire life in Cuba before getting a taste of the wider world, and at first the impact was overwhelming,” says Gabriel. Before long, however, Gabriel was leading tours around campus and founding a group of student mentors, all while turning NYU Abu Dhabi into his home away from home.
Gabriel grew up at a time when information in Cuba was highly restricted—especially online—so when he arrived as a freshman at Abu Dhabi, his world was completely transformed. For the first time, internet access was everywhere. English became his primary language. And everyone in his residence hall hailed from a different country. “These changes, though extreme, helped me grow closer to the people who’d become my best friends and discover how exciting the Middle East is,” he says.
When Gabriel became a sophomore, he didn’t just want to be a member of the campus community— he wanted to lead it. He started by taking a position as a Global Ambassador, leading campus tours for prospective students and helping them make informed decisions. As Gabriel says, “I wanted to become a voice for the real, everyday character of NYU Abu Dhabi and inspire younger students to join us.”
But he didn’t stop there: Gabriel, who minors in Economics, leveraged his interests in business and leadership by founding a group called Mentorship. “The University already had great organizations that fostered women’s mentorship and empowerment, but none tailored for men,” he says. “I wanted to create a group that would complement the women’s efforts by helping men develop their professional skills.”
True to his word, Mentorship pairs male-identifying students with leaders in fields like business, finance, and management throughout the UAE while hosting workshops on campus. “We work on students’ CVs and networking skills, but we also hold intimate conversations about equal gender rights and appropriate conduct for men in the workplace,” says Gabriel. “We call it ‘professional grooming.’” These issues, he believes, are fundamental for raising the next generation of responsible male leaders.
In his third year, Gabriel hopes to immerse himself in the start-up world of New York City during a semester abroad, where he’ll begin the process of learning how to become a high-tech entrepreneur. But none of that would even be possible, he says, without the international scope of NYU Abu Dhabi. “In my first two years alone, I’ve met face-to-face with inspiring business leaders, and I’ve had a voice in shaping the University’s future,” explains Gabriel. “These moments and so many more have helped me discover my place in the world.”