Marhaba Week- Part 1

Hello from Abu Dhabi!

Marhaba, which is Arabic for "welcome", is the NYU Abu Dhabi freshman orientation week. The past 3 days were mainly to allow people to arrive and move in, and this coming week will be full of activities to help us bond with each other and explore the city of Abu Dhabi.

*I now have a new phone number and phone plan on a local network. I still have all my contacts, but my old phone number will NOT work. Due to the high cost of international calls, it is easiest to contact me by Messenger, Instagram, iMessage, WhatsApp, or email for now*

View of the Abu Dhabi city skyline from the campus center
I have been in Abu Dhabi for 3 full days, and honestly it feels like so much longer! Buckle up for a long post, since I have a lot of new things to talk about. So far, I absolutely love living here. The dorms, campus and facilities are newly built and so beautiful. I have loved meeting students from all over the world and learning from their experiences. We have been constantly walking around introducing ourselves with our name and country, and everyone is so friendly. Every day here is a gift, and I really want to make the most of it.

Here are some pictures of the campus:

Campus center at night

The Marketplace Restaurant

Beautiful staircase in the campus center

I love all of the interesting angles, bright colors, and minimalist design of the buildings. The campus has two main levels- a ground level, and then a raised "high line" walkway which goes all around the second level. The campus has plenty of space, but it's also small enough that everything is within convenient walking distance.

Inside the Arts Center

Everywhere on campus, you can hear English in every possible accent, as well as small groups of people conversing in their native languages. Hopefully I can work on my Spanish here :) NYU Abu Dhabi is the most diverse campus in the world, with students from over 100 countries. I love being part of such an intelligent and motivated community. Everyone here introduces themselves with their name and the country they are from, and as someone from the U.S. who hasn't met a lot of people from other countries before, I love seeing all of the different styles of clothing and religious/cultural norms.

We are close to the beach, although I haven't gotten a chance to go there yet. The landscape is very flat and sandy - I'm missing the California greenery a little bit! But the desert is definitely beautiful in its own way. The weather is warm and sunny, but the humidity at night is worse than the actual temperature. More than about 10 minutes outside is rather sticky and uncomfortable. Luckily, the campus is well air-conditioned, so it's pretty bearable. If this is the worst it gets, it's not too bad.

My dorm has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a central living room and kitchenette area for the four of us. Two bathrooms for four people is really great. I'm so glad to have plenty of space, and so many dorm items (bedding, mirrors, towels, trash cans, microwave, mini fridge) were already provided for us when we moved in. I have a meal plan, which is really nice, so I don't have to worry about food. It still sort of feels like I'm on vacation- we still have one whole week of orientation activities before classes start and it doesn't quite feel real yet that I'm starting university.

Bedroom #1 when I first checked in, before unpacking! This picture doesn't do a very good job of showing how spacious the room actually is, and doesn't show the bathroom or the closet space. Now there are so many personal items in there as well. I'll probably post another dorm picture after we finish all of the shopping, decorating, and unpacking.
Living room area, also before being decorated
I arrived in Abu Dhabi on the evening of the 17th. My flights were long and uneventful, and all of the travel went smoothly. Several other NYUAD students were on the flight from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi, which was fun. My roommate and one of my suitemates arrived late during the night. Since then, my roommate and I have gone nearly everywhere together. She is so sweet and fun to be around, and we have pretty similar personalities, so I'm really looking forward to spending this semester with her.

My roommates!
On the morning of the 18th, I went on a campus tour. I was especially impressed with the library and with the arts center performing venues. The recital hall is so beautiful! Here are some blurry pictures of the library that don't quite do it justice- can't wait to study here!

On the afternoon of the 18th, I took care of errands like opening a bank account and getting a SIM card for my phone. I spent a lot of time meeting people while waiting in line, as well.

I then got to visit Yas Mall, which was bigger than most malls I have been in before. It was really similar to American malls, with mostly the same stores. All signs were in both Arabic and English and the prices are in dirhams, but otherwise it was very navigable. People here wear all different types of clothing, from shorts and t-shirts to abayas and niqabs. I'm happy because I prefer to wear slightly more modest clothing than what is available in most California stores, and it will be easier to find modest clothing here. I can't wait to visit more malls, since shopping is a pretty common pastime here and the malls are really nice.

We have a math placement test on the 22nd, which most of us are pretty nervous about. If I don't place into multivariable calculus, I'm going to have to change my schedule almost completely, which is a scary thought. I spent the morning of the 19th studying for the placement test with my roommate, and that evening I got together with a study group as well. I guess at this point whatever happens is meant to be.

By the afternoon of the 19th, all the students had arrived and the actual orientation activities started. I met with the other girls on my floor, listened to a welcome presentation, and met other classmates in a "speed chatting" session. We also had a game night.

The weekends here are Friday-Saturday, and classes are Sunday- Thursday, which is going to take some getting used to. My church meets on Friday afternoons, but I wasn't able to go this week because of the mandatory freshman orientation meetings. I'm planning to go starting next week.

On Saturday morning, I listened to more welcome presentations. We then met with our groups for First Year Dialogue (FYD), which is a weekly discussion session to help us bond with other students during the first semester. We did a team-building activity- building towers out of spaghetti, tape, and a marshmallow! We were pretty proud that our tower actually stayed up, although it's a bit hard to see in this picture.

My FYD group
To give a little sampling of the diversity here, my FYD group had students from Ghana, U.A.E., New Zealand, Poland, India, and Vietnam! It's so fascinating to talk with everyone.

I then went to IKEA with my roommates to get some items for our dorm. It was pretty much the same as IKEAs are everywhere, but there was an interesting little section with some beautiful patterned rugs.

We then spent the evening at a welcome dinner at Etihad Tower. This is the building apparently featured in a scene in Fast and Furious 7 (a movie I haven't seen, haha). We all dressed in semiformal clothes or national dress. It was absolutely amazing food, and the building had a gorgeous jewel-encrusted ceiling.

Things are pretty great here, (but tiring!) and I'm looking forward to more adventures this week.

Until next time,


*Note- For privacy, I will try not to use names of other students on the blog unless it is really necessary. If I post any photo of you that you do not want shown on the blog, just send me a message and I will take it down immediately. Thanks! 


  1. We read this (me and the girls) and really enjoyed! We loved the descriptions and how you are adjusting. Chloe wants to go to Abu Dhabi now!!!

  2. We read this (me and the girls) and really enjoyed! We loved the descriptions and how you are adjusting. Chloe wants to go to Abu Dhabi now!!!

  3. Ali, It is so great to hear from you. The campus does look so beautiful and modern. I am glad things area going well. It certainly does seem as if it is a busy time for you. Love you!

  4. I can't wait online vicariously through you ;) what an adventure.

  5. I can't wait online vicariously through you ;) what an adventure.


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