NYU Abu Dhabi – Where New York Meets UAE

Written by Anvitha Jagannathan

With an acceptance rate of less than 3%, NYU Abu Dhabi is one of the most selective universities in the world. The university admits fewer students than Harvard (4.5%) and less than half the 16% acceptance rate of NYU’s New York campus for the Class of 2023. In its selectiveness and in many other ways, NYUAD seems quite different from NYU New York.

The difference in size differentiates NYUAD from the main New York campus. “Having a closed campus forces students to be within range of each other. In Abu Dhabi it’s impossible to not run into someone you know everywhere you go,” says Luisa Milton, a junior from GLS studying in Abu Dhabi for the year. Some classes are as small as 2 students, providing students the opportunity to connect with their professors more intimately. A lot of the professors live on campus, so it’s very likely you’ll see them shopping at the convenience store or grabbing lunch at the marketplace, reiterating the ease of access. These professors – many of them only visiting for a semester or two – are from all over the world and have access to many unique resources, as opposed to the NYU curriculum which is heavily “America-centric” according to Farah Shahran, a NYUAD student majoring in Social Research and Public Policy.

The students themselves are from all over the world, with UAE nationals constituting only about 15% of the school’s undergraduate population, as compared to the 76% Americans at NYU right now. Americans account for about 12% of the student body, making it the second largest nationality represented. With less than 400 first-years coming in each year, someone could feasibly know everyone in their year. The diversity is much more prominent than on the New York campus for precisely this reason. In the last week, I personally have met people from Trinidad, Latvia, Nepal, Sydney and Ghana.  

These students come from all over the world because some of them are offered the deal of a lifetime – free tuition. Many students in NYUAD do not pay for tuition or housing or meal plans. Everything is provided to them, along with a stipend. The school got over 14,000 applicants this year, an impressive number for an institution that has only been around for a decade. 

NYUAD has developed a reputation for itself in the UAE, making it one of the best places to recruit from for the MENA region. Companies from all sectors come here to hire the NYUAD seniors after graduation. “The recruiting timeline here is more flexible than in New York but no less demanding,” says Cecilia, a NYUAD senior who spent her entire junior year in Stern. “There may be more opportunities in New York,” Cecilia admits, “but because of the number of applicants, it’s a lot more competitive than NYUAD.” Although there isn’t a business major here, economics majors are happy to bring their liberal arts background and their global perspectives to banking and consulting companies in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or their home countries.

Even though the students here are competitive (academically and while recruiting), there is a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that makes NYUAD a very friendly and welcoming community. There is a lot of support given here to students – professionally and personally. There is also a good amount of monetary support provided to students who want to use it towards research on their own or for their capstone projects (every student here has to complete a capstone project in their senior year). Given this inherent bond that the community here seems to have, I’m not surprised that NYUAD students wouldn’t trade this experience for NYU New York. Fortunately, many NYUAD students can get the best of both campuses by spending their study abroad semesters in New York while still calling NYUAD “home”. The same applies to NYU students who spend a semester or a year in NYUAD. With 15 visiting students here for a semester and 2 planning to stay for a whole year, it looks like NYU students are getting the best of both worlds too.

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