UAE University life: Tips from experts and students on how to live your best college life

Monday 30th of September 2019 12:00

Sand, strangers, shivers. This is what I remember from my first day at university in the UAE. (I was new to the Emirates.) It’s not easy to enter a situation alone. Especially when you are still navigating your teens and the awkwardness of age is the least of your worries. Eventually though, it’s all a lesson in grit and game – and most will go on to find their footing, discover themselves a tad more and get ready for – or step into - working life. This week, many, many teens will go through the roughhousing, the giggles and the fright that comes with walking into a new university – leaving behind the known, for their greater good.

Dr Mrabet Jihene, Assistant professor and Director of the Office of counselling and disability at the American University in Emirates, says the period is a big transition. The students “are coming from school to college, where the rules are completely different.”


And socialization can mean a tailspin. “Many people have challenges getting into new relationships. They face acceptance issues, trust issues, adjustment issues. They don’t know how to get into a group,” she explains.


Seventeen-year-old Tanvi Malhotra, who has enrolled at University of Birmingham Dubai, says she is both anxious and excited for college to begin. “We have a welcome week – so I’m actually excited for that and lectures the week after start after so I’m a little anxious about that. But what I expect from this is to meet a bunch of new people, make friends, have a great college experience and also get a world-class college degree that I could use for internships or to use to get into a good graduation [course],” she explains.


While Dr Jihene points out that colleges must do their part in integrating students, it is time for some proactive behavior on their part as well. “Approach the other students and [do] not isolate yourself,” she says.

It’s a fine balancing act, she adds. “College environment is not only about studying, it is also about socializing, activities, work opportunities, internships, involvement, community active participate. All these things new rules have to be understood by the student, and [in an] organized [manner].”

Also, she warns of the price of freedom: responsibility. “Whenever you take your own decision, there are consequences,” she says.


It’s a lesson 18-year-old Michael Leo Kokkat, who is enrolled at New York University Abu Dhabi campus, is getting a semester-filled course in. “My experience has been great so far; while it's difficult to get used to a lot of features of life at university (cooking your own food, filling out your own insurance forms, making schedules and having to hold yourself accountable for them), it has definitely made me more independent,” he tells Gulf News. Besides, it’s given him newfound respect for his parents.

The diversity of the UAE, says Leo Kokkat, is on perfect display at university. It’s also given him a bit more exposure to working office conditions, he believes. “Aside from meeting and working with people who have wildly different backgrounds and experiences.”


1. Read as much as possible. Reading is more required than in high school. Students should follow their professors’ recommendations to get more in line with their college major. They should train themselves also to get into more frequent reading.

In college, learning is no longer given 100 per cent by the teacher, it is more about critical thinking, reading and discussing with the teacher. Critical thinking, innovation and leadership, so that’s why reading should be independent.

2. Research possible college majors. They need to be responsible for their decisions.

3. Work to enhance your communication skills. With both professors and peers.

4. Learn acceptance.

5. Learn how to analyse an article.

6. Try to establish a good relationship with your teachers and college’s academic staff. Get in touch with them before the start of the semester; it would be a great opportunity to disclose academic issues that you’ve had in the past and to discuss any apprehensions you have about the future.


Source: Gulf News