NYU Abu Dhabi Candidate Weekend
I took part in NYU Abu Dhabi’s candidate weekend in 2013. Back then I wrote a blog post documenting my journey to share with others. Unfortunately I closed down my blog several years ago. I’ve decided to repost my experiences (with original captions) to make them available once again.
With the completion of Saadiyat Island, the Candidate Weekend experience has changed quite drastically over the past few years. This post is by no means an up-to-date or accurate depiction of what the Candidate Weekend experience is today. With that said, I think it still captures the spirit of the weekend.
This post is intended for prospective students and parents, but also to current students and alumni to remind ourselves what the Candidate Weekend experience used to be like.
Day 0 — Travel to Abu Dhabi
Day 0.5 — Early Arrival to Abu Dhabi
Day 1 — Visiting Downtown Campus
Day 2 — Last Day of the Weekend
Day 3 — Journey Home
I stayed an extra day since my flight left a day later than most students. The photos are taken with my iPhone since I did not have my camera this day.
Thoughts from the Weekend
New York University Abu Dhabi is built ground up with the desire to create an “ideal” institution for higher education. With the financial support from one of the most prosperous regions on Earth, everything in the college is built to nurture the best citizens in today’s global society. The vision is to gather diligent, competent, and ambitious students who will be the forerunners of tomorrows society — future global leaders.
With 15,489 applicants competing for an enrollment of 150, the university possesses the ability to nitpick the kind of students they decide to enroll. Not only does the university look for high academic standards, but they also peek into qualities that cannot be represented by words or numbers on a traditional application. By physically flying “finalists” all the way to Abu Dhabi, the candidate weekend allows admissions officers to glance at the social aspects of each applicant. Staff members and current students have the opportunity to see how well candidates can interact with each other. Can they speak confidently? How about their personality? Are they arrogant? Are they respectful? Do they have an outgoing personality? Shy? They are looking for important qualities of an individual that cannot necessarily be answered through the traditional application process, but which can become quite apparent over a two day period of constant interaction with students from all around the world.
Without doubt, my weekend in the United Arab Emirates was an exciting one. Never in my life have I stepped foot onto soil (sand) in the Middle East prior to this invitation. The quantity and quality of food served during my four days was a tremendous luxury. Abu Dhabi as a city was nothing like Tokyo but definitely pleasant. The locals were very respectful and my friends were spot on when they told me that the city was as safe as Tokyo. A weekend full of new experiences without a doubt.
The most apparent feature of the people I met were that they were extremely outgoing and kind. As cliche as it may sound, kind and outgoing were the two words that best describe the people I interacted with. Coming from a single sex school with only 50 students in my class, trying to converse with nearly a 100 candidates, students, and faculty over the course of two days was a rather daunting experience.
Having to find common ground with individuals from around the globe was extremely difficult. With that said, what kept the conversations going were not our commonalities, but rather our disparities. One of the most memorable conversations I had was with a girl who traveled from Zimbabwe. She described her first hand experiences about the hyper-inflation which occurred in her country. An anecdote that really struck me was about when she lined up to buy some bread, when she was at the back of the line the price was 500 million Zimbabwe dollars. By the time she would get to the front of the line, a loaf of bread inflated up to 1 billion dollars. Conversations like these occurred spontaneously throughout the weekend, and were definitely a memorable part of the weekend.
As glamourous as the whole program seemed, there were certain things I came across prior to my visit that set off some alarms inside of me. For example, not a single image of their “new campus” could be found on the internet. Never have I came across a large scale project that had such little, if no press, as Saadiyat Island. Over my weekend not only was I able to see the construction with my own eyes, it far exceeded my vision of what the campus might be like.
Another concern was of the upcoming no-confidence vote of NYU’s president, John Sexton. He is clearly the reason that the campus exists today and without his lead, the project could suffer some serious implications (or so I thought). First, the gist I got was that the vote would not pass in the first place. From the limited explanations I received, the movement is led by a minority that is rather expressive of their opinions. Second and more importantly, everyone at NYUAD seemed onboard and enthused about the project. Whether it may be the faculty or the students, every “entity” of the college is committed to nurture this ambition into a viable institution of higher education. Even if John Sexton leaves the helm for whatever reason, the project has enough momentum to keep progressing, and maybe even create a new standard of what a university is all about. New York University Abu Dhabi may be what carves the future of education.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I was incredibly fortunate to get accepted to NYU Abu Dhabi as a part of the Class of 2017. I have no regrets about my choice to attend NYU Abu Dhabi. I’ve met incredible people, worked on amazing projects, and grown in unimaginable ways.