First off, CONGRATULATIONS! I know you’ve probably heard this a hundred thousand times already. But I do want to assure you of what an amazing achievement it is to have gotten this far and decided on what is truly – in my personal yet unbiased opinion – an outstanding place. You should be very proud of yourself, no matter how different your first semester might look while studying remotely.
There’s been a lot of change and uncertainty around your first semester at NYUAD. It may seem like you’re in the dark, but I want to reassure you that it is not our desire to have or keep you there. With everything changing day by day, we have to adapt and pivot quickly. And all while still trying to be thoughtful about providing a meaningful and impactful first semester experience for over 500 students from over 60 countries. It may take us a little more time to figure it all out, and we do very much appreciate your patience.
I thought it might be helpful to bring to you the experiences of some of our current NYUAD students who were more or less thrown into a remote experience overnight. You can read about what online classes have been like for NYU students, and about how students have adapted their home spaces to accommodate for studying remotely. But what I really wanted to get at with these 5 students was understanding how they have been able to build community, stay engaged, and utilize campus resources.
Here’s what they had to say:
I took an online summer course when I left campus, so I was taking class that went from 5-9am EST for a month. Studying remotely was definitely challenging — a few days I actually fell asleep during class. But my professor was really understanding, and did not force us to keep our cameras on. It definitely meant that my schedule had to change, but I got to see the sunrise every day which always made my day.
Samantha Jasen, Rising Senior, USA
Taking classes in a different time zone was less than desirable, but manageable. I took my summer course at home, in Hawaii. The 14 hour time difference meant that my course ran from 11:00 pm till 2:00 am. So my life revolved around that course for those four weeks. However, I think this routine was beneficial in some aspects. It reminded me that my assignments and course work should be one of my top priorities as a university student.
Wilder Worrall, Rising Sophomore, USA
Social Media has been a great help to check in with friends. Whether it’s tagging each other in memes on facebook, watching movies together on Netflix party or playing Mafia on Zoom, I have stayed connected with my friends.
Amna Hasan, Rising Senior, Pakistan
I never would have imagined that building community through online means could be as effective and valuable as it was for me.
Farah Sadek, Rising Senior, Qatar
The campus completely changed once news about the virus became more serious. Classes became remote, all professor-student interactions became remote, and the gym and dining hall closed. If we left the building or were in public spaces we had to wear masks. Also, the campus is usually open to the community but they closed it and monitored all people coming onto campus. There was also hand sanitizer everywhere, and we had daily updates for quite a while. In all, we were scared because the world was changing in a way that our generation had never experienced. The university took it upon themselves to make sure we felt supported, secure, and safe.
There was a swift action from the administration to put in place very strict measures to enforce the COVID-19 protocol. The community responded fairly well. For example, the D2 Dining Hall completely transitioned to “take-out only”. All the furniture was removed, forcing the community to get food as quickly as possible and head out.
Yehowai Sekan, Rising Junior, Ghana
It was an interesting experience to say the least. Of course, going from in-classroom to studying remotely almost instantaneously was a really huge change and it required a lot of dedication, focus and self-discipline.
It was very difficult at the beginning, just as most things are — it still feels strange, in fact. However, finding a space (far from my bed) where I could concentrate and feel motivated helped me get through my online Spring and Summer courses.
I did some zoom fitness classes, I scheduled zoom meetings with a few advisors from the CDC to talk through what the future my look like, whether graduate school would be a viable option, etc.
The resources of the NYUAD library are outstanding. If you are passionate about something I highly recommend learning more about it through the academic databases NYUAD subscribes to. Now is truly the time to educate yourself.
I conduct research under Justin Wilcox, one of the primary investigators in the Falcon Genomics Project at NYUAD. Originally my research focused on falcon parasite identification by extracting the parasite DNA from falcon feces using various kit-based methods.
In early March my research transitioned to bioinformatics and coding work. We would meet every week, at first educating me on the various aspects of Dalma, the High Performance Computing system of NYUAD’s Research Institute. In between our meetings, I would recreate the coding environment he had walked me through. I went from zero knowledge in bioinformatics to create a phylogenetic tree with a Nucleotide sequence from GenBank.
My research was focused on ethnic attrition of the first, second, and third generation of American immigrants of Hispanic and Asian descent. We looked at how subjectively identifying as Asians or Hispanics in the US impacted their average years of education. Working [on research] while studying remotely was hard in the first week. But after a routine was set up with frequent zoom calls and lengthy email chains, things became a lot easier.
The Career Development Center (CDC) was very flexible in setting up virtual meeting with students. I contacted advisors numerous times to have them critique my CV or Cover Letters and give me tips about finding remote internships.
I had an internship lined up from the fall for this summer, and they actually canceled. So I scheduled many virtual visits with the career development center to talk about different ways to stay engaged this summer, and other productive things outside having a job. I got to take an online class (data analysis) that would mean I could start working on my capstone. After applying for CDC Test Prep Funding, I took online classes to study for the GRE. I’m super lucky because my internship actually re-hired me a few weeks into the summer. But the school definitely gave us options to stay productive but also take some time to reflect.
It is very important to realize that your experience will be different than what the rest of NYUAD students have had. However, it does not mean that it will be any less fun or entertaining. You are not alone as your 500+ classmates are also in the same boat. There are numerous people who are working to ensure that you have a smooth transition, such as the Marhaba Committee and the First Year Dialogue Facilitators. Try to be involved in as much programming as possible and use this time to hype yourself even more for the Spring semester!
Joining university online won’t be easy. What I will say, though, is that the move to the UAE is usually a big step, and takes time to adjust to the country, and to college life in general. Academics are definitely challenging, but if you were accepted to NYUAD it means that you can definitely handle hard work. I would reframe this semester to think about how you get a whole semester to adjust to the academics of NYUAD before you have to adjust socially and move onto campus. By the spring, you will be more confident in the classroom and that will definitely translate into confidence in your adjustment. Also, reach out to upperclassmen in your class, or to student groups like REACH for help, advice and friendship! One of the most special parts of NYUAD is the small community that builds each other up.
There is no such thing as a perfect student. We all have weaknesses, and we slip-up. Take breaks from staring at your screen and your course work. This is not high school, the classes will be challenging in unconventional ways, and the teaching styles may be different for you. That being said, you do not need to be going full-throttle all the time on your academics. It is important to realize that while school is the “main” focus of university it is also a time to develop unusual and useful skills that will set you apart from others after you graduate. I recommend taking this time to learn a skill you admire that one of your guardians possess. For me, that was learning how to cook from my mom.