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Time June 30th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After 5 months abroad, I have finally returned home. School ended about two and a half weeks ago and I have been in the U.S. for a week. The last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of activity and emotions.

Saying good bye to the friends I made over my semester was terribly difficult, but with technology we hope to stay in contact. One even lives only a couple of hours away!

I was able to stop on my way home in Brussels, Belgium for a long weekend to meet with a friend. It felt like a world away, but was a much needed holiday after school. The weather there was sometimes as much as 50 degrees cooler than Dubai was at the same time. I was really cold most of the time I was there, and was very bummed when my luggage was lost and I didn’t have any cold weather clothes. Having the opportunity to meet with someone else who had just completed their study abroad experience in the city they called home for the last few months was really cool. We got to share and compare experiences and talk about how we had changed as people and our outlooks on life.

But, I have to say it is relaxing to be home again. Home is comfortable and welcoming, but now I definitely know that the rest of the world is only a plane ticket or a car trip away, and I can’t wait to see more.

I don’t want to make my experience sound like the perfect vacation. I did have homesickness and depression at times, and they definitely effected my experience at time. It was very tough to watch things happen at home and know that there was little you could to help friends or enjoy the experience with them. The last couple weeks were particularly tough, as I was very much looking forward to being back home, but school was in the way.

Study abroad helped me grow as a person in ways that I may not be able to notice yet, but the experiences I have will be with me forever. This experience will be something I am happy that I took part of for a long time, but I know there will be times that I second guess my decision.

Study Abroad is a great opportunity to test yourself, and see your boundaries and surpass them. You will be put in many uncomfortable situations and will learn more about yourself and the people who are close to you while you share the experience. It may help you realize how enjoyable your life is and how much you enjoy your life at home. Or it could open your eyes to how much more the world has to offer. Hopefully, it will provide both.

As my last message I would like to share something a friend told me about his experience and a thought I share, “I loved my experience, but at the end if someone offered me a free week instead of going home, I would turn them down.”

 

Thanks,

 

Tom

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Let’s talk FOOD

Time June 1st, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As the semester is coming to an end I just want to take a moment to recognize the delicious food that the UAE and the region has to offer.

I am not going to show pictures of any of the food from fancy restaurants that I have been to, but rather the street food that I have frequently and prefer most of the time over the places in Dubai Mall, The Marina or JBR. These places only require less than 10 dirhams a person to have a good meal or sometimes just a small snack.

My favorite place in all of Sharjah is Karak Road. Karak Road is right outside of campus is frequented by students here. Karak road is simply the road leaving campus towards Emirates 311 to Dubai or downtown Sharjah. The road is lined to one side with the desert and the other side has tea shops, burger places, Middle Eastern places, tailors, shoe stores, Chinese places, and random cafeterias. My favorite place to stop is Khabeer al Shay, the big tea in English. They sell karak, barata, smoothies and many other things. Karak is a kind of tea that has milk and spices added. They sell a small for 1 Dirham and a large for 2 Dirham. The larges have a lid, so I usually go for those. Barata is wrapped snack, view the pics to see them. You can get anything you want inside of them. Popular mixes are: cheese and honey; cheese, hot sauce, and chips; and cheese, hot sauce, chips and a hot dog. They are all really good and don’t sell for more than 4 dirhams a piece. If I had my own car I would be at Khabeer al Shay daily, but even without one I find myself there more days than not!

Another place on Karak road is called, On the Wood. On the Wood is a Lebanese restaurant. That is where I buy my manaeesh and Shawarma sometimes. the manaeesh is pictured above. On the Wood is also only a few meters away from Khabeer al Shay, so you can order at On the Wood go get tea and come back to pick up your order, all with out leaving your car.

The semester is coming to close and I have about 10 days left in the UAE. I am sad to go, but excited to be home at the same time.

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Working in Dubai– I Got an Internship! + Grand Mosque Visit

Time May 12th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After spring break I was lucky enough to have an interview with Mercer in Dubai. I had worked for Mercer at home in Des Moines during the summer and also during the Fall Semester and during that time had reached out to the office in Dubai about a possible job Shadow. When I met with them the expressed their interest in having me come into the office and work on a project for the remainder of my time in the UAE. I was ecstatic at the opportunity and it only got better when the offered to pay for my travel and give me a monthly salary. This was definitely meant to be and I have been extremely gracious of the opportunity.

With my working, I am now in Dubai three times a week minimum. This has opened my eyes to how much fun and lively Dubai is. It takes me about an hour and half to get to work, using a school shuttle and the metro, but by the time I’m there it feels as though I am in a completely different world. Dubai, unlike Sharjah, is much more liberal with the Islamic laws in culture. I see women and men professional dressed like they would be any where else in the world. The building I work in is called Dubai International Financial Center, DIFC, and it is a small city. It contains many international companies, restaurants, gyms, art galleries and more. If you have seen Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise runs through the building when chasing someone from the Burj Khalifa. Back to the excitment of Dubai, I find myself after work not being in a rush to get back to campus. I have met with friends for dinner around the city, gone to drinks with my coworkers, watched movies, watched the fountains, among other things. When I am in Dubai it feels much more exciting and has helped me realize that this could be somewhere I would want to live in the future if the possibility arises. The city never sleeps and there is always something exciting happening, you might just have to look for it a little. That is when you sue the “Time out Dubai” publication or their website. They share all of the upcoming events in the city.

This is short post, but I am also going to include some pictures of my visit to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This structure is absolutely gorgeous inside and out. Myself and the other exchange students got in a little trouble when we posed for pictures, but beyond that it was an easy trip. Here is some facts about the Mosque. The pictures don’t do it justice, but when visiting the UAE it is a definite stop. Just make sure to dress appropriately otherwise you have to buy clothes from their store and they look pretty funny!

Going to Oman this weekend and the school year will be done before I know it! a month from today!

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Sprang Break Pt. 2– Cairo

Time April 16th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I GOT TO SEE THE PYRAMIDS AND RIDE A CAMEL AT THE SAME TIME!

This was one of the happiest moments of my life! It was something that when I was younger and learning all about the history of Egypt was something I thought would only be a dream. I smiled the whole time I was on-top of my camel, Jacques, and did not want to dismount after our ride. The Pyramids are overwhelming! Reading the dimensions is one thing, but standing next to them you realize what a feat constructing these monuments was. They are huge and something that if you have ever have the opportunity to see in person you must take, you will not be disappointed. The Sphinx is really cool too, but underwhelming. I was wanting it to be the size of a pyramid, but it is tiny when compared. But, still very cool and allowed me to get a great Instagram picture!

Getting to Cairo was long and stressful and I wasn’t even driving. Driving in Egypt like I said earlier about Alexandria is a whole world away from the U.S. and the UAE.

Another great monument we were able to visit was the Cairo Citadel, view the link for more information about the Citadel. Interesting fact, they chose the location by placing meat around the city and they chose the location where the meat rotted last. This how they knew the location had a fresh breeze. The Citadel is perched high above the city of Cairo and offers an amazing cityscape. It also contains the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. I was able to use my acquired knowledge from one of my classes, Arabic Architecture and Design, to describe the beautiful Ottoman mosque that was constructed. The mosque was designed by the same designer as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and the similarities are very obvious. It is a beautiful structure in honor of Muhammad Ali and is now his resting place. Muhammad Ali is considered the founder of Modern Egypt, more information about him here.

I am now back in the UAE on campus and AUS. The trip to Egypt flew by and I am sad that it is already gone. There is so much in Egypt that I missed while I was there. I would love to visit The Valley of Kings, Luxor and enjoy the Nile. With that all being said, I hope one day to return and be able to enjoy the rest of Egypt.

Thanks again to IFSA-Butler, Dr. Mohamed El-Komi, Moataz, Mariam, and Kiri for putting together this amazing trip and providing airfare, travel and food. It was an amazing experience and I am forever grateful!

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Spring Break: Alexandria, Egypt Pt. 1

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

*Note: written on drive from Alexandria to Cairo and edited at the hotel lobby outside Cairo same day

Finally, spring break, a much needed break from the the hustle and bustle of life at university. For spring break IFSA-Butler invited us to travel Egypt for the week. When I heard of the opportunity I was very excited. On the trip with me is Moises, another IFSA-Butler Student, Kiri, our program director, Dr. Mohamed El-Komi of the Cairo program and program directors from Alexandria and Cairo. I would like to thank IFSA-Butler for this opportunity, because I know without them this trip would not be possible. Lodging, excursions and meals have all been provided by IFSA-Butler and have been very generous!

This was my first experience with regional flights in the Middle East and I have been told they are quite the adventure, but Egypt Air wasn’t too crazy. Yes, they showed the same 1980’s movie twice and the saftey videos didn’t work, but the flight itself wasn’t bad, and they served tea through out the trip! We were met by Dr. Mohamed, Mariam and Moataz at the airport outside of Alexandria and were on our way. Our first night was to be spent at the Opera. We had to change in the bathroom of the restuarant we were at, but I think we turned out pretty good. We listened to Egyptian jazz drummer, Yehya Khalil. It was a very enjoyable and relaxing start to our break.

The next day was very busy! we started with a wonderful breakfast on the Mediterranean Sea. We then went to visit the University of Alexandria where IFSA-Butler Students would study if they chose to. We were given a tour of their facilities as well as their intensive Arabic program. Their Arabic program is much more refined and intensive as it is in Sharjah. We then walked down the street to visit the Alexandria Library. The library is gorgeous inside and out. Outside the building is covered in over 120 different languages and inside it hold a museum and the largest reading room in the world. Lunch soon followed, and with lunch came some deliciously fresh sea food. Dr. Mohamed did it again, the man knows how to order large amounts of delicious food! After lunch we took a brake that allowed me to watch the sunset from our apartment and then we went to dinner along the corniche.

Day two was also very busy! After grabbing a small breakfast from a bakery, we visited a day care that IFSA students usually volunteer at while in Alexandria. I met some great four year old children who thought I was quite the sight. being my height and not Arabic made me stand out! It was fun to play with the children some in the classroom and the playground. All of the children are working on learning Arabic and either English or French. It was very impressive to have a four year old talk to me in Arabic, French and English in the same 10 minutes. It makes me wonder once the United States makes a large push for foreign language in public schools. We went on to visit the Egyptian Museum of Alexandria that shows the blend of Roman and Greek culture with Arabic culture through out history (Don’t forget Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great!) After that we made a quick dash to the Citadel. The Citadel sits on the same land that the Lighthouse of Alexandria once was. The Lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world and was abandoned in 1323 after being greatly damaged by earthquakes. The Citadel though is a magnificent structure and provides great views of the Mediterranean.

We just took a quick stop at the City Center and had some delicious shwarma and are off to Cairo for the remainder of the trip. I can already tell this will be an exciting drive! the street is crowded, has no lane lines, and isn’t paved in many parts. Kiri and I plan to watch ‘The Mummy’ on the trip there.

This has been an eye opening trip already. It is great to see another side of the Arab World outside of Dubai. It is a part of the region that many may consider the “true” Arab world when compared to the sights of Dubai. I’m excited to see what Cairo has to offer, but not so much the traffic I have heard so much about!

I will post again after our time in Cairo, until then!

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Celebrating my Birthday Abroad

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

This month I was able to celebrate my birthday abroad. I turned 21 earlier this month and had the opportunity with many of my friends I have made the last couple months. Celebrating my birthday was a moment that made me feel a little homesick. Birthdays are something that everyone is used to celebrating with family and their close friends, but when you are abroad you don’t have your family or your old friends. I can’t deny that I did feel a little homesick, because I did miss my family and friends, but new friends here didn’t let it get bad or let the feeling stay around too long. Read More »

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Finding the Perfect Bath after Holifestival

Time March 11th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

Another great week here at American University of Sharjah! The highlight being experiencing Holifestival. Read More »

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Finally Going Back to Class

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

It had been two months since I was in classroom last when I started my first day of school at AUS. I have already met a few differences from the system that my home university employs and the “American” system that AUS has in place. Here is a short list of what are the differences; Read More »

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Becoming an Exchange Student

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

With IFSA orientation completed I moved into AUS as an Exchange Student! The living accommodations are definitely better than my home university. I have a room to myself for sleeping and homework and share a bathroom and kitchenette with a single suite mate. The room is spacious and very comfortable. All I have done is added new sheets, leopard print, and a rug I bought while at the Central Souk. (Bartered for it and paid less than half the first offer!)

Thankfully, I did not have to start class immediately after moving into campus and IXO, International Exchange Office, had its own orientation planned. This was another great way to get accustomed to the area and the cultural norms as well as meeting other students who are in the same situation as myself. Something I quickly noticed was this week was very much like freshman orientation at my home university. There was a lot of small talk as I tried to meet new people and find others with similar interests as myself. Luckily, I was able to meet some great people!! After the initial awkwardness of ice breakers and small talk, IXO took all of the exchange students on many excursions within Sharjah and also in Dubai. These trips helped me become more comfortable with area, the culture, and with my fellow exchange students. A difficulty of the excursions is traveling with large groups, I realized that traveling in large groups can be very difficult and that splitting up is definitely the way to go.

IXO also provided cultural seminars about the UAE and Sharjah in particular. They do a great job at explaining the many consequences of not following the law and cultural norms, but many times it seemed as though it was more focused on scaring us from doing “wrong” rather than being realistic about what occurs on campus. Sharjah is the most conservative Emirate, but you still see couples talking together in public, holding hands, and other things couples would do in the United States and I have yet to see anyone be deported for sitting too close to someone of the opposite sex!

The pictures attached to this blog include the Sharjah Light Festival, an annual event where many Mosques, government buildings, and other buildings are illuminated with colorful designs, the Burj Al Arab, the only seven star hotel, the Eye of the Emirates, a much smaller London Eye, pictures from a short boat ride we had and the main building at AUS.

I will be posting one more post and I will finally feel caught up to present!

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Butler IFSA Orientation

Time February 19th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

I realize I am running a little behind, but I plan on catching up over the weekend. Here we go!

Orientation provided by Butler IFSA was extremely valuable and enjoyable!! We were able to see the Heart of Sharjah and Dubai before moving into my dorms and experience the culture with the guide of Chris, David and Mohamed.

It all began when I landed in Dubai and went to acquire my visa for the semester and found that they did not have my visa. After a minor panic attack, contacting anyone I can and a 5 1/2 hour wait I received my visa and continued through passport check and met Chris outside luggage pick up. She was very helpful in fixing the issue!

Chris, David, and Mohamed lead some very informative cultural education sessions on the UAE and differences between Dubai, Sharjah and the U.S. We were soon though experiencing the culture as we went to the Global Village, basically a larger Disney Epcot with shops and food, and met Patrick, a student already at AUS for a semester, and Kiri, our regional director.

We went to The Dubai Mall the next day and realized the sheer size of this mall. I have now been there over 4 times and I am sure that I have not seen it all. It is truly spectacular.

Fast forward to the final day, easily the most jam packed and exciting. We walked the area known as the Hearth of Sharjah and visited the Islamic Heritage Museum. We did more walking outside that day than we had all week and it turned out to be the warmest. We moved on to view the livestock souk, exotic animal souk, and the Central Souk in Sharjah. the exotic animal souk included adult falcons, large parrots, tortoises, peacocks and many, many more. We stopped at a tiny Indian restaurant in Sharjah. We were the only white people in the restaurant and were the only people served with silverware. I don’t remember the name, which is a shame, but continued proof that hole-in-the-wall places are amazing!!

The day concluded with a trip back to The Dubai Mall and dinner over looking the fountains. The area of The Dubai Mall shows the majesty of what this country has to show. The world’s largest mall, with the world’s largest fountains with the backdrop of the world’s tallest building. Dinner was very enjoyable, Mohamed made sure that Moises and I did not leave orientation hungry. We had nearly the equivalent of a 5 course meal before we left and viewed 3 fountain shows. It was a remarkable dining experience, but the night was not over, we left dinner to go to the 124th of the Burj Khalifa. The height we were at was unthinkable, especially when we were able to walk outside onto a viewing deck. This was really an amazing experience, and a truly great send off to AUS from Butler-IFSA. I just want to thank Chris, Mohamed and David for the experience!

Again, I’m trying to catch up to present, the next post should be very soon!!

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Tom Takes the Tube: A Short Stay in London

Time February 4th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

*Written in London Heathrow Airport, edited in my hotel room in Sharjah*

For my first transatlantic flight, I can easily say it will only get more difficult. Both flights I had multiple seats to myself which made sleeping on the plane possible. My biggest fear before arriving in London was taking The Underground by myself with my luggage. After receiving directions and my Oyster Card, it could not have gone smoother! Read More »

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5 Months & 50 Pounds: Packing for London and the UAE

Time January 26th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Sharjah UAE, United Arab Emirates | No Comments by

5, the amount of months I’ll be away from home.

50, the amount in pounds I’m allowed to pack in my checked bag.

It’s midnight Monday morning and I have finally finished packing. It took me and my mom a few tries and a break for dinner to finally fit everything thing I think I need for five months in to 3 bags. Pictures are in the gallery! (I need to figure out how to add to post!) Over the past few days the realization of my decision to study in the UAE has really sunk in.

A few things about myself before I begin my adventure

  • My name is Tom Fisher, I’m from Bettendorf, Iowa (part of the Quad Cities, right on the Mississippi River).
  • I go to Drake University, a small (4,000 undergrad) liberal arts  school in Des Moines, IA.
  • Hobbies are soccer, cycling, watching documentaries and eating.

More to come when I can intertwine them with what I am doing during the semester.

The adventure will begin in London. I will be staying with a friend until Saturday when I fly to Dubai! I will have another post before that adventure comes to an end

I hope to keep you entertained and coming back for more. I look forward to sharing my experiences and thoughts during this semester.

 

–Tom

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