Hello dear friends!

I'm excited to share that my first two weeks as a freshman here at NYUAD are behind me!! It all happened so fast! Sunday, August 28th marked my first day as a college freshman, and luckily I only had one class. This class, not so luckily, happens to be my most challenging, a class analyzing the relationship between government and religion in the US Constitution, or more specifically, the Establishment Clause. It's taught by NYU's former president, John Sexton, which makes it more bearable than the class would've been otherwise, with its difficult reading material and extensive writing assignments. My other classes aren't as difficult, but they still require more time and effort than I put into my high school classes. These classes include Crime, Yes Logo, and Arabic. These aren't your traditional intro level college classes, which is something I commend NYUAD for establishing. My class on Crime, for example, has more upperclassmen than freshmen, which pushes me to work harder to attain a comparable level. Yes Logo is a classes that analyzes the history and purpose of branding, image, identity, and, of course, logos. For this class, one of our jobs is to redesign the logo for the UAE branch of the WWF. Pretty big deal!! Regardless of the homework load, I think that the reward and accomplishments vastly outweigh the negatives, making the struggle worthwhile. 

As riveting as it may be to talk about government and religion and crime, we can't simply overlook everything there is to do in Abu Dhabi besides sleeping in the school library (not the most recommended tourist destination, but definitely up there for students!). When I don't have much homework to do for the next day, I like to go off campus and discover the city a bit. I've mostly gone to a few malls in the area, but, since the malls are huge, they've been enough to keep me busy. The corniche is also a popular destination at night, with its restaurants and scenic boardwalk. A few of my friends from the area took me on tours around the city and showed me their favorite, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. As shady as they may have seemed at first, the food was delicious and authentic. 

During our Eid break (currently happening), my friends and I decided to take a trip to nearby Dubai. We left bright and early Saturday morning to catch the bus from Abu Dhabi to Dubai; an hour and a half bus ride for only $7! Once we got there, we spent an hour fooling around at an athletic department store, then went to a place called Jumeirah Beach Residence. This was a super cute beach-side promenade area with lots of restaurants and shops. We stopped for lunch then spent an hour or so at the beach. The weather was surprisingly not humid, still warm though, so we took advantage and walked around for a while. We then took the metro ($2 a person) to Dubai Mall, opting for the longer route to see more. From the metro, we got an amazing view of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. My friends and I then walked about in Dubai Mall, ignoring the fact that we could hardly afford anything there. Although the clothing was too expensive, I did treat myself to frozen yogurt from Pinkberry, something I haven't had in years. We then headed out to see the Dancing Fountain on the Burj Khalifa Lake; quite the experience. The show was short, but very impressive. After this show of jumping water, we headed back home, taking a two hour bus ride back to Abu Dhabi. Our sixteen-hour adventure ended with popcorn, noodles, and guitar in the student lounge; the perfect end to an amazing day.

Yesterday, the day before Eid, a few of my friends and I went to the St. Regis hotel about 5 minutes away from campus. We wanted to see the sunset, so the hotel's private beach was the perfect place for that. After the sun set, we hung around for a little while longer, enjoying the soothing waves of the gulf and the peace of the beach at night. We explored the hotel a little, enjoyed some of their complimentary dates and Arabic coffee, then headed back to campus. This little trip made me realize that a little change of scenery or a short getaway can really boost your spirits. We were gone for maybe an hour, but in that hour, we took so many pictures, we laughed a ton, and we realized that, not only are we fortunate enough to attend one of the best universities in the world, we get to live in a country with incredible cities, people, and so much to do.

I'm currently planning a trip that I'll be taking during fall break. I'm not sure where I'll be going, but the idea of traveling to a new country has me on my toes in anticipation of the upcoming break. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the past two weeks for your entertainment!! :)

somehow scored a ton of leg room and an empty seat beside me AND an aisle seat
embarking on the journey of a lifetime
they make you forget you're only in economy class
home sweet home
indeed it is
view from the front of the uni
Campus Center
another shot of this stunning campus
Marhaba Week signs
there's that Campus Center again
sneak peek of the inside of the Campus Center
view from our floor lounge (perfect place to do homework)
another great spot to do homework if you enjoy sizzling a little (atrium)
Mom look I made a friend!
exterior of Yas Mall
Allah's hundred names
fancy hand embroidery (closer view of the last photo)
tea before the journey to Dubai
the one and only
ceiling in Dubai Mall
ceiling in Ibn Battuta Mall
JBR promenade
view of the Burj Khalifa from the metro
start of the light and fountain show at the burj
caught it in mid action
sunset at the St. Regis
super clear water at the private beach
the St. Regis Saadiyat Island

Based on these photos, I can see how it may seem as though I'm not doing very much homework, but, somehow, I just have a lot of extra time on my hands. Since the semester hasn't gotten extremely busy yet, I want to take advantage of all of the time I have to explore my new home.

Check back in soon to read about my next adventure!

Hello again my friends!!

It's time to tell you about more of my trip to Morocco!! Amongst our many adventures, we went to the northern parts of Morocco for the first time, which was absolutely beautiful. I have an uncle who just moved there, so we basically got free housing, enabling us to travel and visit all over. We took this opportunity to visit a different city nearby everyday. The most notable of these cities were Chefchaouen, a town in the mountains, and Ceuta, a Spanish territory.

To get to Chefchaouen, we had to drive through the mountains, which was super scary but absolutely gorgeous. The drive was about 2 hours long because of how slowly and carefully you have to drive in the mountains. We took the coastal mountain road which had little outlooks to park and see the ocean from about a thousand meters up. The view was truly breathtaking. After stopping once, we kept on driving and stopped once again, higher up in the mountains, to get a 360 view of the natural splendor. We got back on the road for about another hour before arriving. While on the road, though, I felt a bit of chorus nostalgia and decided to play choral music. I decided on Alleluia by Eric Whitacre. It sounds like playing a deep, moving choral piece while driving through gut-wrenching winding roads 3,000 meters up is a good idea, but I would strongly advise against it. The song is about 9 minutes long and is very climactic at certain parts, so it felt like a background song to a tragic movie, and it honestly made me tear up. I'm not sure why, maybe because it was so moving, or maybe because of how scary the road was, but I felt something indescribable. Regardless, I wouldn't do that again. Anyways, once we finally arrived, we parked the car, and walked uphill (upmountain?) to the souk part of the town. Chefchaouen is known for being very blue and picturesque, and it was just that. The charm that the town has is really refreshing compared to more crowded, urban parts of Morocco. We walked through the narrow, winding streets past little souvenir shops and cafes. We could only stay for about an hour because we needed to make it back in time for Iftar at 7:30pm and it was already 5pm. We bought a few souvenirs, then made the long journey home. Our visit to this town (and playing Alleluia on the drive) was probably my favorite part of our trip to Morocco.

Another really exciting place that we visited was Ceuta. To be honest, I didn't know that it existed until this summer. It's a Spanish territory at the northern-most tip of Morocco, and requires that you have a visa or European passport to visit. It's an hour drive from Tangier, where we were staying, and there was a highway that allowed us to avoid using the mountain roads again. The strangest part was the time change. When we were on the Moroccan side of the border patrol, it was 2pm, but as soon as it crossed the border, it was 4pm. In a matter of seconds, the time changed. Crazy. Once we entered Ceuta,we went to a shopping centre that was outdoors. There was Zara, Mango, Pull & Bear, and a few Spanish brands that I had never heard of. What I didn't anticipate was how bad my Spanish was, and how hard it would be to communicate without it. I figured that I knew enough Spanish to get around and that, if I didn't, someone would understand enough English to help me out. I was dead wrong. I forgot every ounce of Spanish that I had once learned and prided myself in, and reverted to English. That wasn't any more helpful because no one there spoke English. Double crazy. I somehow made my way in and out of stores using basic words and hand symbols. I bought what I liked and moved on to the next linguistic journey at the following store that would have to suffer my Spanish inabilities. I bought some really nice jackets and shoes at Zara, a really cute top from Sfera, a selfie stick from Bershka, and nice pants and shoes from lefties. Everything was so unbelievably cheap!! When we finished our shopping, we went to Burger King, the only restaurant within a 5km radius of the mall. We headed back to Morocco and enjoyed the fact that the time change gained us two more hours to eat before the sun went up to start fasting again.

The last journey on this trip of ours to the north of Morocco was an excursion to Cap Spartel and the Hercules Caves. Cap Spartel is home to a lighthouse, the only one I've ever seen in Morocco. This location is famous for providing an amazing view of where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. The view was absolutely stunning. From the edge of the cape, we could even see Spain across the strait. After hanging around for about 20 minutes, we headed to the Hercules Caves. There's a whole story behind them, apparently, but I was so excited to go in that I didn't quite bother reading about it. The caves themselves were a lot more exciting than the information posters they had, I'm sure. We entered the caves, and the first thing that I noticed was the damp, cool air inside as compared to the hot air outside. It's really hard to describe what the cave was like, because apart from the rocks everywhere, there wasn't much else. We somehow managed to have a blast inside and scare ourselves a few times. We saw bats a few times that totally freaked us out, but apart from that, it was really pleasant. To keep ourselves entertained, we sang some Christmas carols to hear the echo in the cave. It sounded really, really good (I'm a little biased). We kept walking around and checking out the little nooks and crannies hidden in the cave. After that, we headed for a different part of the cave that had a ton of souvenirs and a little monkey. It was really random, but super cute. I'm not sure how they transported a huge glass case into the cave, but I just accept it and do my shopping.

Here in Florida, we don't really do this type of stuff, which is why it was so captivating to see it in Morocco. Not only was it just beautiful, but the fact that all of this natural beauty was in my home country and I never knew about it made it even more amazing. There's so much more to discover in Morocco, like Dakhla or Ouarzazate, so I would like to do more exploring in the coming years. I hope everyone enjoyed these pictures, and that I was able to inspire a sense of adventure in even the least adventurous person (like myself).

Have a wonderful weekend!!

xo, nads