NYU Alumni Magazine Spring 2010


First Class

Students from around the world flock to NYU’s bold ABU DHABI experiment

by Jason Hollander / GAL ’07

Since NYU announced in 2007 that it would create a brand-new sister campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), there has been no shortage of opinions from students, faculty, and alumni. Some believe it’s a transformative step toward building a truly global university, while others wonder how well NYU’s Village culture will jibe with the state’s Middle Eastern perspective. But one thing is indisputable: The school, in its debut year, has attracted some of the best students in the world.

The numbers say it all. NYU Abu Dhabi’s inaugural class includes 150 students from 39 countries. Though some 9,048 applicants sought admission, only 2.1 percent were accepted. Of this group, the average SAT critical reading score was 770 (ranking fifth among U.S. universities) and the average math score was 780 (ranking sixth). About one-third of students hail from the United States, with the UAE, China, Hungary, and Russia comprising the next most popular countries of origin. As one would expect of such an international crowd, 87 percent speak two languages and nearly half speak three or more. President John Sexton called the incoming freshmen “arguably the most selective and internationally diverse entering class in the world.”

The new class started courses this September at a temporary location in downtown Abu Dhabi, while a full campus on Saadiyat Island is scheduled to open in 2014. There they will receive a classic liberal arts and science education, much like their brethren in New York—albeit with student-faculty ratios of about eight to one.

Here’s a peek at four members of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Class of 2014:

Kodaikanal, India

Goal: To be an international business leader in biochemistry and technology
Honors: Ranked in top 1 percent in India’s National Mathematical Olympiad; awarded “Best Batsman” at St. John’s State Cricket Tournament
Activities: Helped the poor and blind through the Akanksha Foundation for four years
Languages: English, Hindi, Tamil, and Sanskrit
Favorite music: Trance, hip-hop, and electronica
Favorite recent movie: Frost/Nixon
What you should know about him: “I’m a very open person, very easy to approach. And I do whatever I can to earn people’s trust.”

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Goal: To make art that will influence and educate people, such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth
Honors: Elected high school’s assistant deputy head prefect for environmental issues
Activities: Tutored students in biology and English
Languages: Arabic and English
Favorite music: Rock, such as Kings of Leon, Muse, Radiohead, and Oasis
Favorite recent movie: Avatar
What you should know about her: “I was raised by a British mother and an Emerati father. I experienced both the Western and Arab perspective, so I try to really understand other people without judging them.”

Recife, Brazil

Goal: To become a biologist and conduct research in the oceans and the rain forests
Honors: Recognized by city of Recife for raising awareness of environmental issues
Hobbies: Avid scuba diver and regional folk dancer
Languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese
Favorite music: Argentinean salsa and cuarteto
Favorite recent movie: Avatar
What you should know about her: “I can see myself sharing traditions and exotic customs with friends from all over the world, and calculating how many Argentinean alfajores (cookies) and Brazilian brigadeiros (chocolate pastry) I should cook for them.”

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Goal: A career in the Ethiopian diplomatic service
Honors: Ranked in top three on national exams; represented Addis Ababa at the African Union Youth Conference
Volunteering: Worked as translator and teacher for the NGO Voice for Street Children Ethiopia
Languages: Siltigna, Amharic, and English
Heroes: Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi
Favorite music: James Blunt, Enrique Iglesias
Favorite recent movie: The Hangover
Personal History: “I am the only boy in my family to graduate from high school. They are very proud of me. I carry all the responsibility to change my family’s life.”