UAE students miss out on campus life in prime universities

UAE students miss out on campus life in prime universities

Dubai: We all know by now that COVID-19 has taken over the world, throwing a spiral into everyone’s plans. And these bright young high school graduates are paying a heavy price for it. For years they have dreamt of freedom and living college life on campus away from the clutches of their loving families. Not just that they have worked hard, achieved great scores just so they could get into top universities around the world. While they have managed to get that going, they have struggled in other respects. Be it procuring students visas on time, living on campus enjoying their freshman year to the fullest, these millennials say they are missing out on a lot.

Take a look at some heart-warming stories.

Bahraini expat Ahmed Abdulla, 19 is an aspiring actor. He applied and was accepted into BFA acting program at Pace University in New York. “It was a tough audition process and I was lucky enough to be one of 25 students selected for the programme. My course was meant to start in Fall 2020 on campus. As an aspiring actor, it was a dream come true to be accepted into a university in New York, the vibrant city of culture, theatre and art. But the universe had different plans for us young high school graduates.”

Ahmed said thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was extremely difficult to get a student visa and the university adopted a hybrid system of both online and “in person” classes. “As an international student unable to get a visa, my only option was to go fully online and zoom into the person classes.”

Ahmed Abdulla

He took a brave decision of a gap year. “I deferred my acceptance to Fall 2021 and am staying back in Dubai. On the bright side, there is no place I’d rather be now. With most of the world in lockdown, Dubai is gradually opening up. I am working at a theatre called the Courtyard Playhouse, getting opportunities here to train and perform on their stage (with all appropriate social restrictions in place).

He added how “Of course it is unfortunate to hit the pause button on my formal education for a year, albeit I am learning everyday at the Courtyard Playhouse and it is a place filled with opportunity and culture. In terms of campus life, I’m missing out the most on meeting and connecting with people. I think it’s a big part of uni life to learn from people around the world and establish both connections and friendships."

Ahmed is not alone in his decision to take a gap year.

Kaivalya Vohra

Kaivalya Vohra, 17, Indian is another bright student who has decided to take a gap year despite being accepted into the prestigious Stanford University. Vohra who was enrolled into the computer science programme at the university said he did not want to loose out on campus experience for his freshman year. “University life is not just about the academics. It is just as much about the social interaction and on campus experience. It is about networking and making friends for life here. I feel sad that I am not there but the circumstance is such that we have to go with the flow for now.”

Vohra is not sitting quiet in his gap year. He has started a start-up project based in India with another Stanford student. “We are working on an app based project and am currently living in India to build this,” said Vohra in a telephone interview to Gulf News.

“Once am done from here I will return to the UAE and teach children Maths, Computer Science.”

He wants to travel and back pack once travel restrictions ease out. And is tutoring many kids for math and computer science

Gaurika Sawhney

Gaurika Sawhney, 18, said it was a very hard decision for her as well to take a gap year. “After four years of hard work and persistence, I got into to one of my top choice schools — the CS program at Carnegie Mellon University. While I had finally felt that everything had fallen in place, Covid-19 hit and required me to question my plan for the next year. Although I was against it at first, I made the decision to take a gap year. I’d love to be on campus right now making new friends, learning from my professors and getting my full college experience but the sad reality is that I wouldn’t be able to have those things as an online student. Instead, during my gap year I have the opportunity to discover my areas of interests, pursue my non-academic passions and spend an extra year with my family. I look back to a few months ago when I had to make my decision and I believe I made the right one for me.”

Radhika Nyayadhish, 18, who secured an undergraduate course in chemical engineering at the prestigious Imperial College London is not taking a gap year. Instead she has opted to do her first term online sitting in Dubai. “I am missing the whole freshman experience, the college tour, orientation for parents, meeting other freshers, meeting my roomie. It is not what I was hoping for as my freshman year.” She added that owing to social distancing measures in place, students of the college will not be able to host “in person” events. “This is usually done to help students find friends and meet like-minded people. It is such a sad situation.”

Radhika Nyayadhish

Radhika said she is missing the whole positive vibe associated with being in a live lecture. “There is so much interaction that happens with your professor. There is a bond, a relationship established with friends and teachers. I am missing out on that completely.”

She added that her college is doing its very best to ensure students have as much of a normal university experience as possible. “Given the current circumstances though, I feel that the university is trying its best to give us as much of a normal university experience as they can while keeping all of us safe. The teaching hours still remain the same. I just attended a virtual dinner hosted by the chemical engineering society and I got to meet quite a few people doing the same course from around the world, which was great!”