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.
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.
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.