08/21/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

NYU Abu Dhabi Readies For Competitive First Class

Laith Aqel, co-valedictorian of his high school graduating class in Wayne, N.J., and juggler of too many activities to list, says he always envisioned himself on a classic New England campus with "Gothic architecture and big grass lawns." He weighed offers from Tufts University, Boston College's honors program and New York University.

But when he leaves for college this fall, he will travel 6,900 miles to Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf. That is where N.Y.U. will open a campus in September with an inaugural freshman class of 150 students from 39 countries, a far cry from Mr. Aqel's old ideal.