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