Alumni Magazine Issue 30 cover

Alumni Magazine Issue 30 cover key silhouette


In our spring 2018 features section, we transport you to NYU’s two overseas degree-granting campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai. We picked up some student-beloved ephemera—and a few genuine necessities—from both schools. Some items are magnificently site-specific, others delightfully universal to any college experience. We sent our multimedia content maven Kate Lord to both locations in order to provide a truly firsthand feel of the places. Here, she gives the details on the mementos she brought home.

Cover Photo: Chelsea Cavanaugh


1 The Renminbi (currency) here amounts to 10 yuan, or approximately $1.50—“just about enough for me to buy handpulled noodles with eggplant from the cafeteria in the basement of NYU Shanghai.”

2 maneki-neko talisman

2 The Japanese maneki-neko (“beckoning cat” talisman) symbolizes good luck and is very popular in China. “I got this at a ‘fake market’ in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum subway station. Fake markets sell all kinds of tchotchkes, in addition to knockoffs of designer handbags, shoes, clothing, electronics, and more.”

3 Abu Dhabi street sign replica magnet

3 “I bought this magnetic replica of a street sign at the World Trade Center Mall in Abu Dhabi [see photos of its interior on our features page], which is centrally located downtown.”

4, 7, and 21 Strawberry cookies, onion crackers, potato chips, and chocolate marshmallow snacks are a few of the munchies available at the 2F Café—a popular spot for feeding students’ caffeine addiction and meeting up with friends. My colleague thought the American Classic Flavor chips tasted slightly of shrimp—not what you'd expect from a potato chip.”

Cookies, onion crackers and potato chips

Table Tennis ball

5 A dance studio in NYU Abu Dhabi’s central building serves as a practice space for both women and men eager to gain mastery over the table tennis ball. Ping-pong is one of the intercollegiate sports at NYU Abu Dhabi.


6 The university hands out NYU Abu Dhabi sunglasses to freshmen during special events. They’re essential for Abu Dhabi’s desert climate (average annual rainfall is less than three inches). In the summer, when temperatures climb to the double digits, students find relief from the heat at Saadiyat Public Beach.

Dirham (currency)

8 Dirham (currency) first went into circulation in the United Arab Emirates in 1973. The name comes from the Greek word “drachmae,” which means “handful.” To prevent counterfeiting, the banknotes are watermarked with the falcon, the national bird of the U.A.E. Ten dirham is equal to about $2.75.

Shanghai museum brochure

9 A museum brochure for Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, which is located in the former Nanshi Electric Plant. Dedicated to contemporary works, the state-run museum will host the 12th Shanghai Biennale, kicking off later this year.

Calligraphy set

10 A calligraphy set includes all the tools for practicing the craft of ornamental writing—an important art form in China. “During my visit to NYU Shanghai, the library hosted an event to teach calligraphy (Greek for “beauty” and “write”) to students making Lunar New Year decorations.”

I heart Shanghai key chain

11 Shanghai spirit on a key chain.

badminton shuttlecock

12 The badminton shuttlecock turns heads at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, both of which have intercollegiate teams.

mall guide

13 Shoppers will definitely need a mall guide to navigate the upscale Yas Mall, the largest in Abu Dhabi and the most popular among those in the NYU community. It’s the closest shopping plaza to campus and the university runs a shuttle there.

KFC Chicken take out package

14 KFC, which assures patrons its menu is halal, is a popular restaurant that delivers only large quantities to campus. A Facebook group called “Hungry @ NUAD” allows students to combine their chicken takeout orders.

Lipton tea bags

15 Lipton tea bags from Abu Dhabi, used to make the popular chai karak, typically sell for 1 or 2 dirhams. Chai karak is tea mixed with whole or condensed milk and spiced with cardamom. “A freshman treated me to a cup after we had dinner at Foodlands."


16 The chopsticks are from Sushi Counter, an on-campus restaurant that operates independently of NYU.

Ramen package

17 “The Engineering Design Studio at NYU Abu Dhabi has a small stocked pantry where ramen is always at the ready. Part maker space, part engineering incubator, the studio is for serious endeavors (you don’t use it to 3-D print something for your mom).”

chocolate-covered date

18 A chocolate-covered date, made with camel milk. “Dates and camel milk are popular in Abu Dhabi. I bought a bag of these in the convenience store on campus, which sells snacks and other essentials.”

napkin from Foodlands

19 A napkin from Foodlands, an Indian restaurant in the strip mall next to the original campus, was a favorite of the NYU Abu Dhabi crowd when the school was located downtown. Students mostly eat in the dining halls, Library Café, or Marketplace, using their “dining dirhams,” but will stop into Foodlands now and then for a plate of vegetable kadai.

camel toy

20 “I bought this camel toy at the Grand Mosque [a memorial to UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is buried in the courtyard]." Among its grand features are a chandelier—the world’s largest—made of thousands of Swarovski crystals. “It’s a big tourist spot, but also an active mosque.”

faux jade dragon figurine

22 "This faux jade dragon figurine is also from one of the many fake markets." Dragons are important creatures in China and symbolize power and good fortune.

admission sticker from Lean Cafe & Bar

23 A bar admission sticker from Lean Cafe & Bar, which is located very near three of NYU Shanghai’s dorms and is popular with students.

camel milk chocolate bar

24 Unlike cows, camels can digest cacti and fiber and thorny plants, and don’t need as much water, so their milk is a potential resource in food-insecure locations. A camel milk chocolate bar is one of many treats made with the animal’s milk.

chocolate marshmallow snack

25 A chocolate marshmallow snack

mall guide

26 A mall guide for the Life Hub shopping center across the street from three of NYU Shanghai’s dorms. The McDonald’s inside actually delivers to the residence halls.

chocolate camel milk

27 Camel milk is believed to possess healthful properties, such as a protein that may be beneficial to people with Type 1 diabetes. “This was my first experience with chocolate camel milk, but I couldn’t taste the difference.”

Air pollution masks

28 "Air pollution masks are sold all over Shanghai. I bought these at a Family Mart, which is equivalent to a 7-Eleven."

cat sticker

29 A student who frequently works in the Engineering Design Studio designed this cat logo, which fellow students then put on mugs, T-shirts, and other items. This cat sticker is modeled after one friendly feline that hangs out at the studio.

triangular ruler

30 A triangular ruler with an image of the NYU Shanghai building is sold in the campus bookstore, which carries items similar to those at the Greenwich Village store.

qilin mascot magnet

31 NYU Shanghai’s mascot is the qilin, a benevolent, single-horned mythological creature that won’t tread on or eat living vegetation. A qilin mascot magnet is a popular keepsake for students.

coffee cup

32 A coffee cup from the on-campus Blacksmith Coffee Company. The beverages are so good, non-NYU-affiliated Emiratis often hold business meetings there.

Lunar New decorative knot

33 The Chinese art of knotting dates back to prehistoric times. "I bought this Lunar New Year decorative knot in one of the fake markets."

beach wristband from Saadiyat Public Beach

34 Sun-lovers receive a beach wristband from Saadiyat Public Beach when they pay the admission fee of AED 26.25—about $7. “None of the students wanted to join me when I was there in February because it was too cold (mid-70s), but they all assured me they spend a lot of time there in the summer.”

panda toy

35 The panda is an endangered species native to China. But the panda toy abounds in the marketplace.

subway card

36 A subway card for the Shanghai Metro when it’s too far to bike.

museum ticket for the Louvre Abu Dhabi

37 "I kept this museum ticket for the Louvre Abu Dhabi as a souvenir. Students are pretty excited about the recently opened museum. Now priceless artwork is right in their backyard on Saadiyat."