When the opportunity arose for Daniel Fogal to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi for a semester, the timing couldn’t have been better.

The Assistant Professor and his family had recently moved from New York City to Hudson Valley when the children began homeschooling due to the pandemic. As they were already in a transitional period, Fogal did not feel constrained by school or other activities when the opportunity arose to offer his wife and children the chance to experience life in the Middle East.

Fogal was first exposed to NYUAD when he was invited to campus for a workshop as a NYU PhD student in 2015. When he returned to NYU as a faculty member, he snapped up the opportunity to come back to NYUAD to teach. “You seize the opportunity as it presents itself because there’s no guarantee that it will rise again,” Fogal said.

A Country-sized Disneyland

Fogal’s 11- and 8-year-old children initially had some reluctance about their move as they had just started making new friends in Hudson Valley. But, alongside their 4-year-old brother, they adapted very well. “I must say, almost immediately, they loved it here… they just had a fantastic experience,” Fogal said.

During their time here, the Fogal family explored amusement parks and aquariums, and ventured into the empty quarter desert. “(The UAE is) like a country-sized Disneyland to them,” Fogal said.

Assistant Professor Daniel Fogal with his wife and three children.
Assistant Professor Daniel Fogal with his wife and three children.

Giving His Children an Experiential Education

As part of their homeschool curriculum, Fogal’s wife intentionally integrated learning about the Middle East and its culture. Instead of reading textbooks at home, the children were taken to the mangroves or the desert to learn about the ecosystems and animals that thrive in these environments.

Life on Campus

Having faculty housing right on campus meant Fogal was able to easily see his family in-between classes, and also gave him the chance to get to know the students better while walking the highline after work.

Fogal defines the NYUAD student body as the “most thoroughly authentically international student body in the world” with no dominant culture or religion. This dynamic mix also called for interesting conversations during his classes. As a professor teaching bioethics, discussions become more interesting and enriching with contributions from such a wide range of perspectives. “I thought that was fantastic,” Fogal said.

Living on campus also allowed Fogal to meet faculty members from other disciplines. “I think I met more fellow faculty members from more disciplines in my first month or two at NYUAD than I had in four and a half years at NYU New York,” Fogal commented.

Fogal and his family are now back in the US, but their positive experience at NYUAD and in the UAE stays with them. When asked if they would return for another teaching stint, Fogal said, “With the great experience (we’ve had), there’s no question that we will want to return.”