Zach Malcarne, Economics Major
Incoming from Utah State University, USA, in the spring and fall
The highlight of my experience at AUS has been the diversity of my classmates. I come from a pretty mono-cultural part of the western USA, so it’s different to have every-day, academic conversations in the classroom that incorporate religion, language, economics and politics from all different backgrounds and perspectives. I have enjoyed all the opportunities to explore the Emirates and the Gulf region.
One of the most memorable activities abroad was a trip to Musandam, Oman, where we spent almost a whole day on a traditional fishing boat (called a dhow) and got to see what the county looks like from the coast. One of the best experiences from this semester is starting a small running group with some friends. Every other day we run in the mornings—not too much, don’t think I’m too ambitious—but it adds new levels to your friendships as you go through hard things with your friends (like waking up at 6:30 a.m.). We talk to each other about everything from religion to roommates. We do go to a lot of malls. I think that a trip to Dubai Mall is an Emirati cultural experience.
Dania Naschar, International Business Major
Incoming from Maastricht University, the Netherlands, in the spring
Academically, AUS taught me how to manage my time between leisure activities and five different courses, each including midterms, projects and a final exam. I am not used to such a system because at my home university we have a problem-based learning period structure that is divided into six periods per academic year, each including two courses per period. It was cool to experience a different university system.
One highlight of my stay at AUS was definitely attending the Club Fair and Global Day 2018. I actually joined more than 20 clubs because I loved them all and I couldn’t decide which ones to choose. Most of them were cultural clubs, like the Syrian, Jordanian and Palestinian culture clubs. By attending their events on campus, I learned to be more open and speak to more people. I was always welcomed with open arms, and IXO did an amazing job integrating us into life at AUS. Their outings and activities were great and unforgettable.
From a social (and cultural) perspective, I could finally fulfill my dream of living in the UAE. As I am originally from Syria but was born and raised in Germany, I always wanted to experience life in an Arab country and fully engage in the community and religion. Living in Germany does not really give me complete involvement in the Arab world and that’s what I enjoyed most at AUS. I fell in love with randomly saying salaam to people, with listening to the call to prayer (adhan) but also to Arabic music in the Student Center and with walking around the beautiful AUS campus. I enjoyed speaking Arabic with my friends and classmates and eating delicious food.
This whole engagement helped me find my place very quickly. It felt like home. I met the nicest students and professors from different cultures who made my experience even more amazing. Many students came up to me to talk about the different cultures and ways of living between the UAE and Germany. Some pretty interesting and lively conversations took place during my stay. Those conversations helped me be more open and confident. Overall, studying abroad at AUS was the best time of my life!
Samuel Virolainen, Chemistry Major
Incoming from Wheaton College, USA, in the spring
AUS is a very diverse community and it was so enriching to be around so many different nationalities and cultures, and it showed me that I hope to work in this kind of environment in the future. Similarly to AUS in general, the UAE is very diverse and has a little bit of everything: you can go to Dubai and experience a very fast-paced environment, or be in Sharjah and experience the richness of Middle Eastern culture and heritage.
Prior to my arrival at AUS, I contacted a professor, Dr. Sarah Dalibalta [in the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences], to see if she would like any research assistance for the Spring 2019 semester, as I hope to go to graduate school in biochemistry/molecular biology and to conduct international research. Dr. Dalibalta actually allowed me to spearhead a manuscript with another AUS student on autism spectrum disorder in the UAE, and [we have] submitted it to a peer-reviewed journal! Doing research at AUS has been a great experience because the faculty and students are very intellectually curious and willing to learn and teach. This project made me feel involved in the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences for the short time I was here and made me feel more “plugged in.”
IXO was helpful in providing events for us to become familiar with the culture and the country, in addition to events sponsored by CIEE. The local students were welcoming, and I made a lot of friends in my classes, in addition to the friends I made in the exchange program.
I am so thankful for my time at AUS. I would not be surprised if I somehow end up teaching here some day!
Ryland Ploeger, International Relations and Affairs Major
Incoming from Gonzaga University, USA, in the spring and fall
In my application to Fulbright, I wrote about the female students I met at AUS and how drastically they altered my perception of women in academia and government in the Arab world. As someone aspiring to a career in diplomacy, I was very impressed by how many women I met at AUS who had similar career goals as mine–to work for the betterment of their home countries, whether through government bodies, nonprofits or non-governmental organizations.
Furthermore, I was surprised by how many women I met at AUS who drew motivation from their Islamic or Arab backgrounds to succeed at university and go on to have impactful careers. My AUS experience inspired my Fulbright community engagement and research project in Bahrain on women’s empowerment initiatives and community engagement in the country. By coaching the Model United Nations team at my university in Bahrain and volunteering with various women’s associations on the island, I’m hoping to gain a better perspective on how women in Bahrain are empowered to engage with issues they care about, and how various women civic leaders are creating positive changes in their communities.
My experiences at AUS showed me that Gulf women are incredibly motivated to work for the betterment of their home communities. I’m hoping my time in Bahrain can help me continue to learn about how Arab women of all walks of life are already working to benefit their country, and how the next generation of women leaders is planning to create a positive impact in their communities.
Michael Kaufman, Accounting Major
Incoming from University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, in the fall
Academically, AUS challenged me to think outside of the box, work with teams of people with habits and customs wildly different from my own, and manage different English accents because of how diverse the faculty is. AUS was one of the most enriching academic experiences I have had.
From an extracurricular perspective, I was able to acquire a job as Dr. Taisier Zoubi’s teaching assistant for the semester; he is the head of the Department of Accounting in the School of Business Administration. I was able to continue to build on my accounting knowledge and meet amazing future accounting professionals while assisting the professor with his courses.
Socially, I always felt welcomed and had people I could talk to and hang out with. IXO does an amazing job of integrating the exchange students into life at AUS, and students on campus are always eager to give you a warm welcome. There are always events going on around campus, or you can take the shuttle into Dubai and enjoy the city. Trust me, some of your best friends live in the UAE, you just don’t know it yet!
From a cultural perspective, AUS is the perfect place to learn about different countries and their cultures because of the cultural clubs on campus. I went to Palestinian, Jordanian, Saudi, Syrian and Emirati cultural club events to increase my cultural intelligence and was always welcomed with open arms and a dish of local food.
Alice Týnská, Norwegian Language and Literature & Baltic Studies Major
Incoming alumna of Masaryk University, Czech Republic, in the summer
Sometimes when I close my eyes at night,
Memories awake – they are so bright.
This was my destiny, I know,
From plains covered with ice and snow
To a distant, distant foreign land
Where camels are lying on red sand.
I’m walking alone in Sharjah’s streets,
Tasting dried dates and other sweets,
Colorful fountains in the city center
Not far from Al-Qasba, and so I enter
Fairy-tales of One Thousand and One Nights,
Colors and reflections, amazing lights.
The scent of perfumes and the gleam of gold,
Sharjah as a crossroad in times of old,
The walls and labyrinthine passages
Have preserved two-hundred-year-old messages.
History breathes from all these places,
People from the past have left their traces.
Back to the present, out of the shadow
To Al-Noor Island and the gleaming meadow.
Such a hidden gem, a real treasure,
Enjoyment, emotions, peace and pleasure.
To the Butterfly House, the path is paved,
One of the trees whispers: I was saved.
Read more: www.alicetynska.com/news/sharjah/
Jon Thompson, Finance and International Business Major
Incoming from University of South Carolina, USA, in the spring
Taking a semester abroad (or any sort of international assignment, really) is, in one way, the creation of a new life. You put your old one on hold–suspend your cell phone service, your auto insurance, and you leave your car, apartment, friends, and family behind. In this old life's place, you build a new network predominantly from scratch. You reform habits according to the particular environment.
The opportunities and conversations you encounter have a profound influence on your thoughts and even upon the impressionable portion of your personality. Free from the rigidity of your previous reputation, you have the ability to step outside your previous bounds to experience things you've never tried or had access to before. And this is liberating, because for a preordained amount of time, you can try out a new existence, risk-free.
In the end, my experience was not about traveling to new countries, sampling local cuisine, or snapping photographs on location at the sights that friends will envy me for having visited. (However, I totally did all of those things and it's okay if you're a little bit jealous.) Rather, it was about forging human trust with the Other, who in their alterity is not like you. It's about welcoming another person and lifting them to a position of importance that is on equal footing with your own self-consideration.
After all, business is built on a market structure, and despite a myriad of regulatory frameworks currently in place, this entire system of commerce in which we engage is still dependent on the individual actions and responsibilities of ordinary people like me and you. Trust, then, is rendered essentially vital for our own preservation and improvement as a species. We can cultivate it with our travel and with our investment into relationships, and I urge you to take part in this rich tradition.
Read more: www.130emiratisunrises.blogspot.com
Tamia Wallace, International Relations Major
Incoming from Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, in the fall
As an international relations major, it was amazing to live in a different country and experience how another government works. Also, I absolutely loved being a part of the Performing Arts Program at AUS! I don’t get to do it at my school, so to have the opportunity to do a play, perform in a choir and participate as a solo vocalist was amazing! I made friends with AUS students pretty easily! Everyone was really warm and inviting, and they were interested in learning about me and my story. Living in such a diverse culture was an enriching experience! Everywhere I turned was an opportunity to meet someone from a different culture and learn about them.
James Martin, Business Administration Major
Incoming from Simon Fraser University, Canada, in the spring
The orientation provided by IXO was absolutely amazing. We arrived 10 days before classes started and IXO had something planned for us nearly every day. It gave us a good feel of the city and really helped us adjust to the culture and time zone change quickly. IXO staff were overall extremely helpful. They were always a short email away with multiple staff members to answer any questions you may have.
I enjoyed the format of most of my classes. Class sizes were much smaller than what I am used to at SFU, which I found very helpful. I could actually get to know the professor more. I found the amount of work required through the course of the semester to be slightly less than at SFU. And for those reasons, I actual received much higher grades than what I usually do at SFU. I found that I was able to retain much more of the content while on exchange just due to my connections with the professors and the small classes.
One of my professors, the best professor I have ever had, had a different method of teaching that was based more on discussion and student involvement and then putting what we learn into real life situations. I found that extremely helpful and it benefitted me so much that I walked into the final with a 100 percent grade in the class.