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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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