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UAE Living

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 

In my time in the UAE, I have gotten very comfortable in my everyday life. One might think, since I am from the West, that I would have a hard time adjusting to life in a Gulf country. However, life here is fairly easy. Yes, Sharjah is different than what I am used to, but the people here are essentially the same as back home.

Eating at a Mexican restaurant in Jumeirah

Eating at a Mexican restaurant in Jumeirah


Even though many of them wear kandoras, hijabs, or abayas, they live their lives the way many college students in the West do: studying, hanging with friends, exploring the city, and getting involved. The biggest difference I have noticed between students in the West versus students here is the focus on reputation. A person’s reputation, especially for girls, is extremely important here. Therefore, while the people here may act like what Westerners consider a normal college student, they are very guarded about how they act and are not open about certain things, like Western college students are.

Dubai Marina near Jumeirah Beach

Dubai Marina near Jumeirah Beach

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina

 

 

 

However, it was one of the biggest surprises of the semester that people here are essentially the same everywhere you go, and it really opened my eyes in a good way. I am glad I can go home and bust many of the stereotypes that people have of Arabs and Muslims as judgmental and closed minded, because they are not that way at all. Everyone here has been so warm and welcoming, and I have made many friends here that I will miss very much when I am back in America.

Dubai has also been a great help in allowing me to adjust to life in a Middle Eastern country. It’s like a Westernized oasis in the Middle East. As discussed in my previous blogs, it has everything a person could want. While Sharjah is a beautiful place, it can sometimes be a bit stifling for someone who grew up in a less conservative environment. That is where Dubai has been a great weekend escape, where I can still experience Middle Eastern culture, while at the same time feeling comfortable to be who I am. I have spent most of my time in the UAE studying, having lunch with friends in the Student Center, grabbing Starbucks, reading at the beach, smoking shisha with friends in view of the Gulf, dancing and experiencing the amazing nightlife, and exploring Dubai. I have also spent a weekend in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, for National Day, where I got to see the famous Ferrari World, home of the world’s fastest roller coaster, and the Sheikh Zayyed mosque, which was absolutely beautiful.

Sheikh Zayyed 

Sheikh Zayyed mosque

Sheikh Zayyed mosque

Outside Sheikh Zayyed

Outside Sheikh Zayyed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferrari World

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Friends

A cat we met at lunch

A cat we met at lunch

Lunch with Ilyssa

Lunch with Ilyssa

 

My best friend, Ilyssa, from NY

My best friend, Ilyssa, from NY

Me & Nada

Me & Nada

 

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Egypt: Cairo

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In Cairo, the Egypt IFSA-Butler team treated us to an authentic Egyptian meal, which was delicious. Egyptian food has become one of my favorite meals since I have come to the Middle East! It’s probably one of the things I am going to miss the most when I return to the United States. We ate at a place called Nile City, which is a chain of restaurants along the Nile River. Our view from the restaurant was a beautiful view of the Nile River. Swimming is actually forbidden in the Nile so that it can be kept clean, but there are very colorfully lighted boats that cruise along it, which we caught sight of when we ate at the restaurant.

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I also got to visit the Suspended Church, as well as other Christian churches, and a mosque. We walked around Cairo and witnessed the lives of everyday people, and at night, we went to a traditional show. There was music, dancing, and colorful whirling dervishes. Beforehand, I smoked shisha and had hot tea in an Egyptian cafe along a lively, busy street.

 

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Friday Brunch!

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

One of the best Dubai experiences is Friday brunch. It’s not like in the United States, where a few friends get together for food and drinks at a local restaurant that serves specials on Saturday or Sunday mornings/early afternoons. It is a whole EVENT. Every Friday (which is like a US Sunday), hotels across Dubai host different levels of brunches. The two best brunches in Dubai are at the Westin and Fairmont hotels. Me and my best friend that I met here, Ilyssa, from New York, attended the brunch at the Westin in Dubai. It was one of the most fun days of my life. There was every kind of food you can imagine, from sushi, Indian, lobster, Arabic traditional dishes, Italian, and much more. There was a petting zoo for children, but we visited so we could pet the animals! There was also Chinese dancing and entertainment, and an assortment of beverages, including a cocktail made in a watermelon! It was an absolutely beautiful day, and a must for you if you study abroad in the UAE!

Entrance to the Westin -- breathtaking

Entrance to the Westin — breathtaking

LOBSTER GALORE

LOBSTER GALORE

Cous cous -- basically Arabic rice

Cous cous — basically Arabic rice

Complimentary rosee

Complimentary rosee

Watermelon drink!

Watermelon drink!

Best friends

Best friends

Ilyssa!

Ilyssa!

Coconut drink

Coconut drink

Our view -- I will miss that view of the Gulf

Our view — I will miss that view of the Gulf

This puppy made her day

This puppy made her day

Chinchilla!!

Chinchilla!!

Iguana

Iguana

Bunny!

Bunny!

Me with a porcupine

Me with a porcupine

Close up of the porcupine

Close up of the porcupine

Ducklings :)

Ducklings :)

With the dog again

With the dog again

Parakeets

Parakeets

This lady really enjoyed that iguana -- we weren't the only ones crashing the petting zoo

This lady really enjoyed that iguana — we weren’t the only ones crashing the petting zoo

Me with the dog -- it got lots of loving

Me with the dog — it got lots of loving

The hotel was so beautiful

The hotel was so beautiful

A pretty horse decoration

A pretty horse decoration

Best day with best friends

Best day with best friends

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Departure in 3…2…1…

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It seems I have made it full circle! I am about to return to America in three days. I just want to reflect on my experiences in this post. As I have said in a previous blog, my time in the UAE has been 100% unforgettable. I have changed as a person and in my way of thinking about life and people since I have been here, and it has all been for the better. I have made friends here that I know are going to last far beyond my study abroad experience. We’ve already made plans to visit each other again! I also know this isn’t my last visit to the Middle East. My time here has convinced me that this would be an amazing place to live and work, and I plan on searching for jobs here after I graduate in May. This study abroad has truly changed my life. I recommend studying abroad in the UAE to anyone, regardless of your personality, what you like to do, or what you’re studying. It truly has something for everyone. The studies are difficult, but I have learned so much, and have written some papers I know I can take home to my Memphis professors to potentially turn into theses. I have learned a lot academically, about myself, and about life in general, just from studying abroad. I wouldn’t change my decision to study abroad ever; in fact, this has probably been the best semester of my college career. I am actually very sad it is over. I am looking forward to going home and seeing my family, but I will miss the friendships I’ve made, the lifestyle I’ve gotten used to, and the beautiful scenery I get to wake up to everyday. I absolutely recommend studying abroad in UAE, NO DOUBT! I love and will miss you UAE!

Atlantis Hotel & The Palm

Atlantis Hotel & The Palm

 

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Mini Vacation 2

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Since Dubai is home to so many different nationalities, there are several differently themed restaurants, bars, and clubs. One of Steven and my favorite hangouts was the Irish Village, where they serve Irish beer, food, and even have ducks and cats running around! It is in a place called Century Village, which has a variety of restaurants themed from around the world, including Italian, Japanese, Austrailian, and Chinese. Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating where you can also smoke shisha, which is a very common pastime in the Middle East. It is similar to hookah in the United States.

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Jumeirah Beach is another really beautiful beach in Dubai. It hosted the Parachuting Championships.

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Barasti is a very prominent beach club, where people come to hang out during the night and the day.

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One of Steven’s and my last excursions was going to the top of the Burj Khalifa. It was very beautiful. Even if you are afraid of heights, I definitely recommend experiencing it!

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Egypt: Luxor and Aswan

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

IFSA-Butler planned a trip to Egypt for its Egypt & Sharjah students for our week-long Eid break in October/November. I got to go on a cruise to Luxor and Aswan, and also spent a few days in Cairo. (One blog will be devoted to Cairo, and this blog will be devoted to the cruise.)

The cruise started in Aswan. I boarded the boat with my Butler liaison, Jani, and were immediately offered hibiscus. We also had a beer called Stella, an Egyptian brew (not Stella Artois), while we were waiting for our bags to be brought to our room. The cruise boat was small, but nice. It had a pool on the top deck, where people could tan, read, relax, swim, and/or grab a refreshing drink.

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The first day, we went to see the Unfinished Obelisk. It is all granite. For a video of a tour of the Unfinished Obelisk, visit: . [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Onz_dbuy79o[/youtube]

 

We visited the largest man-made lake, as well.

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We saw a variety of temples and tombs in both Luxor and Aswan. To get to a few of them, we took a lovely, refreshing boat ride.

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On the last day, Jani and I went on a hot air balloon ride, which was one of the highlights of the whole trip! At the end of the ride, we were greeted by locals, where I snapped a shot of me and a mule, who looked super sleepy.

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Mini Vacation – Week 1: Dubai Mall

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So my husband, Steven, came to visit me for two weeks! We stayed in a hotel in Dubai, so it was like a miniature vacation, although I still had schoolwork. We did a lot, so I’m separating the two weeks into two blog posts.

 

One of our first stops was Dubai Mall, where I showed him the aquarium.IMG_0478

 

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We also stopped at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. There are not that many locations in the United States, and this is their first Dubai location, which just opened for business shortly after the exchange students arrived in the UAE.

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We also had dinner at other places in Dubai Mall, including the Social House, where I had the best sushi I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. I’ve since ordered the same sushi at least three times! 😀

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Dubai Mall is also home to a fabulous fountain/water show, similar to the one in Las Vegas, NV. It has showings throughout the day. Many tourists come just to watch the show, while others — mainly locals, which happened to be me after a while! — just got to enjoy it over lunch or dinner.

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The largest mall in the world is right next to the Burj Khalifa. In fact, you can go to floor 122 of the Burj Khalifa by buying tickets in the bottom level of the mall. But you can go even higher up the Burj if you go to Atmosphere, a relaxed club on floor 123.

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Other miscellaneous things we found in the Dubai Mall were some very large chocolate products!

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At the Atlantis hotel, one of the most expensive and beautiful resorts in the country, there is Nassimi Beach, where they host concerts, snorkeling, and other beach activities; five star restaurants; swimming with the dolphins; and a gold ATM!

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The Dubai Mall is definitely a huge tourist attraction, but also a place where many people that live in Dubai come to shop, just as you would at your local mall!

 

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Life at AUS

Time January 14th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After the exchange students settled into the dorms and were introduced to each other, we started to get to know the students on campus. I met my roomie, Touleen. We have semi-private rooms, which means we each have our own rooms, but share a kitchen and a bathroom. It’s a really nice setup. The only downside to the dorms that students, especially from the West, may notice is that there are a lot of rules. The curfew is midnight on weekdays and 1:00 AM on the weekends, which are thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the UAE and most of the Middle East. Alcohol is also completely forbidden in Sharjah, and therefore, on campus.

 

Me and my AUSome roomie :D

Me and my AUSome roomie :D

 

The UAE is a very diverse place, though. Sharjah is a very conservative emirate, perhaps the most conservative of the seven emirates. Dubai, however, is well-known for being a vacation oasis in the center of the Gulf. There is everything to do in Dubai, including swimming, snorkeling, skydiving over the Palm, going to concerts, snowboarding, skiing, and it also has a lively night scene. The clubs are full of people from all over the world, and range from scenes such as beachside to a view from 123 stories up in the Burj Khalifa.

 

Burj Khalifa - The tallest building in the world

Burj Khalifa – The tallest building in the world

 

 

Dubai also has some of the biggest malls in the world. Dubai Mall is famous for being the largest mall in the world. It has many Western shops, including Forever 21, Express, Bebe, etc., but there are also a lot of Arabic shops and restaurants, where you can eat Lebanese, Egyptian, or Gulf cuisine, as well as get a tailor-made abaya. The Dubai Mall is also home to Ski Dubai — an indoor ski course that even has a ski lift — and an aquarium.

 

 

 

 

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Dubai Aquarium

 

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Dubai Aquarium

 

 

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

 

The Dubai Mall also houses a large waterfall. Many tourists stop and take pictures of the Waterfall. Dubai has to everything bigger, better, best!
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And the journey is only beginning…

Time September 24th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My first flight overseas from Houston, TX (destination 1: Germany) went by fairly quickly for 10 hours of ear-popping airtime. I quickly found my IFSA-Butler group waiting at the gate. As we were about to board the plane to Cairo, our plans were disrupted by a Lufthansa workers’ strike. Little did we know that was only the beginning of our troubles…

We waited in the Frankfurt airport for hours and hours, but we finally got a flight to the Roman airport – where we spent some more hours. Bright side? We got to spend a night in Rome, Italy!

Our solace from airports for a night

After a good night’s rest we re-entered the Roman airport to fly to Destination: Cairo! Thankfully, we got there with little incident.

Birds’ eye view of Cairo!

Landing in Cairo — finally!

We arrived at our temporary apartment in Cairo, where the University of Cairo students usually stay later that night. Needless to say, the apartments were beautiful. Roma – our Student Services Coordinator – informed us that at one time an ambassador actually stayed there!

Dining room

1/2 of the living room

Other 1/2 of the living room

Bathroom

Floor

We did a lot while in Cairo. We went to Giza to see the pyramids and ride camels! We also ate koshary – apparently a cheap staple food in the Middle East. It was delicious – especially with a touch of hot sauce. We had orientation presentations and Colloquial Egyptian Arabic lessons (temporarily for me – since I would be leaving for Sharjah soon). Right before I left, we also had the opportunity to listen to an authentic Egyptian music performance and eat an ice cream cake for dessert.

Land of the pyramids

Champion and I on a desert stroll

Sphinx

The group in Giza

Koshary

As Chris, Jenny, and I were arriving at the Cairo airport to depart to Dubai, we were confronted by riot police, who informed us that Egypt Air was on strike. That’s right – it happened again! I couldn’t leave for Dubai until the next evening, but I got to experience the ice cream cake and musical performance, so it was okay!

The flight to Dubai went well, and Jenny and I arrived and went straight to sleep in a hotel before we proceeded to AUS (American University of Sharjah). When we were well-rested, we drove to AUS so that I could get settled and meet the other exchange students. There are approximately 30 this semester, from America, Germany, Uzbekistan, and more. The campus is absolutely beautiful. It doesn’t cease to amaze me everytime I walk to class.

       

    

 

AUS library

 

Campus mosque

The International Exchange Office at AUS had a variety of activities planned for the students, such as a trip to Jumeirah Beach, tours of Dubai and Sharjah, and a trip to the Arabian Wildlife Refuge Center in Sharjah. The staff is very welcoming and helpful.

My roommate, Touleen, is from Syria, but she grew up here. She has been introducing me to the native fun things to do, such as going to shisha bars and drinking karak (Arab tea with milk). I have been hanging out with her and her friends, as well as the exchange students. Some of us went to Sunset Beach one day, and we also ate at an authentic Arab restaurant.

        

 

Market

 

Market

 

Sunset Beach

 

Mall of the Emirates

And this is only the beginning!

 

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Countdown to departure!

Time August 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sooooo….

I am leaving the United States in five…four…three…two…one days! It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I will be away from family, friends, pets, my apartment, and the US for four+ months. However, I am so excited to be heading to the UAE and the American University of Sharjah. First, I get to travel to Cairo for a couple days orientation. From there, I’ll go to Sharjah for more orientating. I’ll be there until January 18!

I’m a little nervous. I don’t really know exactly what to expect upon landing since the Middle East is so different from the United States — obviously. I had my friends come shopping with me to purchase some clothes that are more Middle East appropriate. I’ll post some pics!

I’m still pulling some last minute things together before I leave. Taking the GRE on the 31st, and going on a last-minute mini family vacay to an aquarium and to do some shopping. I haven’t even started packing yet! 😀

Anyhow, more to come when I actually arrive in Sharjah!

Atlanta

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