ABU DHABI // Now in their third year, many among the first intake at New York University Abu Dhabi are keen to stay in the UAE after they graduate.
For the 145 students from 40 countries who will finish their degrees in 2014, coming to Abu Dhabi to a new university was a challenge in itself.
“It was a risk,” said Joshua Shirley, a political science and philosophy student from Australia. “But it offered me a chance and a challenge to grow in ways I could not have imagined in any other environment.”
Leah Reynolds, a social research and public policy student from the United States, admitted she was initially “extremely sceptical” about coming to the UAE.
“I was leaning heavily towards choosing a more established university back in the States,” she said.
“But I was impressed by the candidness with which my questions were addressed when I was interviewed at NYUAD and wanted to find out more about the university.”
After three years in Abu Dhabi, many of the students are keen to give back to the country in the spheres of culture, art, politics, and economics.
“I would love to stay in Abu Dhabi after graduation, to give back to the city that has given so much to me and to explore it in a professional rather than academic context,” Mr Shirley said.
NYUAD’s small classes mean students work closely with academics, said Songyishu Yang, from China.
“Abu Dhabi provides a more personal course design with its mentoring programme,” she said.
By the time the first batch of graduates leaves in 2014, the university expects its campus on Saadiyat Island will be open, with more than 2,000 students.
Bouthayna Baltaji – an Arab-American born and raised in Abu Dhabi who studies visual arts and social research and public policy – said the new university was a great opportunity for her.
“I remember the posters with Sheikh Zayed stating ‘educate a woman and you educate a nation’ lining the Corniche Road on my way to school,” she said. “The posters have become a reality with the opening of NYUAD.
“It was an opportunity for the women of Arabia to get a globally qualified education without having to leave their families and homes.”
Emiratis have become a core part of the university, and nationals are the second largest group of students after North Americans.
Shamma Al Mazrui, from Abu Dhabi, said NYUAD had given her a taste of “two worlds”.
“[There are] smaller classes at NYUAD – my intermediate microeconomics had less than 10 students [but] in NYUNY my finance class had more than 50 students.
“It was interesting to experience both worlds.”
NYUAD has hosted a wide range of public lectures, workshops, and academic conferences this year, with more to come next year.
“Over the past year, NYU Abu Dhabi advanced importantly towards becoming one of the world’s next great universities,” said Al Bloom, the vice chancellor of NYUAD.
“We are pleased to already be contributing to the evolution of Abu Dhabi as a centre of educational and intellectual quality, cultural richness and responsible development, and to be serving as a persuasive model of how higher education that is truly global can release the potential of a co-operating world.”