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NYU Abu Dhabi is one of the few university campuses in the world that is still operating. Many students and staff still remain on campus, while struggling to stay safe, retain a sense of community and safeguard both individual and community health. Both the editors of this magazine are part of this community. The following images document, subtly, the emotional and psychological impacts on young students whose lives have been interrupted by the looming virus, as the numbers of cases climb daily by the hundreds. NYUAD is also one of the most diverse campuses in the world; travel restrictions and other realities created by the pandemic, affect various students to different extents. What unites us is the common experience of uncertainty and that we are all somehow still in this space, together.
“I check reported cases daily. I have tabs full of articles open, I know all these facts. I was just reading these diaries from Wuhan before you came over. “
“I stayed up watching anime for six hours”
“It’s my last one – fuck it.” (shot over Zoom)
“My family’s in Jordan. They’re okay. But a lot of people back home rely on daily wages so the lockdown really affects them. I had never really thought about that before. It makes me feel so bad.”
“They cancelled my flight back home. I don’t know where I’m going to be, really.”
“I look outside to see who’s not wearing a mask.”
The big questions on our minds: is it going to come to campus? What will happen to the borders?
“I’ve been drinking instant coffee every day five minutes after waking up for a zoom class.” “You need to stop doing that, that’s sad.”
“I literally played Subway Surfers for two hours straight. Nothing else! This is terrible. My work!”
My thesis project is all about migration, movement, And suddenly, the whole world’s stopped moving.
“I’m just going for a smoke with my dinner. This is the highlight of my day.”
“My immune system is crap. I can’t take a single risk.”
“I’m good. I stay inside watching movies on my ceiling.”
There’s something really comforting about laundry machines. The soft, rhythmic whirr, the promise of warm, clean sheets. To help me sleep at night, I listen to a sleepcast on the Headspace app, called Midnight Laundry.
“There’s a big sticky note on my doorknob saying BARBIJO. It means mask in Spanish, so that I never forget.”
My photography professor asked me: why the fixation with black and white? But that’s how everything feels rights now, I told her. Colorless.
It’s funny how the whole world suddenly understands this feeling of being cramped up and staying in bed and having life reduced down to the smallest tasks, like washing your hair. Everyone’s just trying to manage and do the bare minimum. It’s like all of a sudden they understand a lifestyle that I’ve known for so long. Having depression interrupted so many things for me before; it’s almost like I feel prepared for this. The difference is now more people understand.
I bought an orchid plant at the beginning of senior year and named her Lizzo. She just started blooming again. Sometimes, that fact of her unfurling, again, is the only thing that manages to cut through the fog in my head.
My parents are everything to me. They urged me to come here. I just wanted them to be here when I graduated. I wanted to see the pride and happiness on their faces, and take pictures under the palm trees in my gown and cap.
“Theater students have had to take their capstone projects online. We can’t perform them. I’m full of loss and questions.”
I guess life is monotonous. I don’t do much.
We ended a while ago. It’s been months. I don’t know why every morning, after scrolling over updates for the UAE, I still check the number of cases where he lives.
My dad sends me daily GIFs on messenger, usually of animals or cartoons doing weird dances. I forward them to my roommate and we get a good laugh.
I’ve started deep listening to albums, and making mini themed playlists. I made a space-themed playlist inspired by my astronomy class. It’s called “moonshine”
One of the highlights of my day is seeing Ravi in the dining hall, one of the cashiers there. We both speak Hindi. He always asks me how I am, always smiles and offers a joke or two.
Every day I wonder why there are still so many construction workers on-site.
“Oh yeah, everyone’s doing these now.”
As a senior, I wish we had known exactly, that that was gonna be the last time we’d be in a classroom together.
“That book is hot. I would have sex with that book.”
Before lockdown began, I rushed out to buy a yoga mat. I started doing fitness classes on Zoom about a week or so in, because I noticed my body hurt all the time. I realized I was always crouching, and when I slept I curled up rigidly into a fetus position, putting strain on my neck and back. My therapist says this position is something I go in because I subconsciously feel threatened or anxious. I needed to get loose.
“I’ve been working on making this shelter but it keeps breaking into pieces.” Are you building a home? “I don’t even know.”
“Now I get time to journal. I haven’t done that in ages.”
“I just woke up now. But it’s good. I gotta work.”
“The same song’s been playing for the past 45 minutes. I guess apparently I’m obsessed with it.”
“How do you normally spend your days?” “I guess…I’m on the phone a lot.”
“Shoes off before you enter! This is a virus-free zone.”
“I can hear the conversations of people outside.”
All images taken by the author.
You can find more photography, and a continuation of this series, here.