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Spring Semester in Sharjah!

This blog post is brought to you by Haley Murphy: student from the University of Pittsburgh and shawarma enthusiast.

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Over the course of three days, thirteen students from across the US made their way over to Sharjah, UAE. Nobody knew exactly what to expect. I, personally, was a bit nervous. Will I experience a lot of culture shock? How will my classes be? And most importantly, how will I live without Chipotle for the next five months?

 When I asked my fellow CIEE-goer, Seth Fuller, what he was most worried about when coming to Sharjah, he replied:

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“No joke, I thought I HAD to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants everyday. Wasn't looking forward to burning to death in May and June.”

 He was very pleased to discover that this was not actually the case.

 Orientation week was unforgettable. CIEE and the IXO team made transitioning into life in the UAE a breeze. The week was jam-packed with site seeing and exploring our new home.  The jetlag was tough, and but nothing that a little Turkish coffee couldn’t fix.

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Lucky for us, the Sharjah Light Festival was happening the week we arrived. During the week, after sunset, several buildings throughout Sharjah are selected to display bright, colorful patterns that morph and shift to the beat of Arabic music. The patterns are specifically created to fit the architectural design of each building. It was incredible!

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That week we explored several museums, a wildlife preserve, and attended the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. It was a wonderful presentation, and a very rewarding and informative discussion.

Lisa Sun from Wake Forest University found the Skeikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding to be her absolute favorite part of orientation week. She says:

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“The food from SMCC was really good. Like so good I would go back just for the food. Also our host had an eye opening exposé on the region. Overall really cool center.”

Naturally, our introduction to the UAE wouldn’t be complete without seeing the malls. Malls in the Emirates are like nothing else. Want to go skiing, ice-skating, check out a small amusement park, eat, or shop? You can do it all in one building.

No trip to the Dubai mall is complete without a picture in front of the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building)! Every night after 6pm, the fountain in front of the Burj preforms a water and music show. The tall spurts of water dance and move to the beat of the song. Even after three months, watching the fountain show doesn’t get old!

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Living in the UAE will also open your eyes tosomething your life has been direly missing: the world of dates. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked dates back in the US. But I had no idea how many different types of dates existed! So many different sizes, colors, flavors and textures. If you plan on coming to Sharjah, be prepared to become date-obsessed.

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Before we new it, orientation week was over, and classes became a reality.  When asked about how she has been finding her classes here at AUS, Ellen Cleary says:

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“I guess I'd say classes here feel different at first, but once you really get into them they're really not all that different. I have noticed students ask a lot more questions here.”

 One of my personal favorite experiences was our Desert Safari. We took 4x4’s into the dunes, rode camels, watched belly-dancers, and went sand-boarding! One of the best parts of the night was sitting under the night sky and enjoying the stars.

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Has there ever been a purer image of CIEE love than Noah helping push Lisa down a sand

Dune?

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The CIEE trip to Oman was a very exciting weekend. We got to see the Grand Mosque, traverse up to the Omani canyon, and haggle our way through the souqs of Muscat. We also explored the Nizwa Cattle Market! Later that afternoon we went to a fort, where we got to look across the city to the beautiful mountains. Oman is a stunning country, and I’m so happy we got to experience it.

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To any future CIEE-goer that may be reading this: it has become tradition to take a selfie with one of the Omani-canyon goats. I urge you to carry on this tradition. It is very important.

 

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 The Skeikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was perhaps my favorite excursion thus far. Just look at the pictures and it is not hard to see why. The mosque is truly breathtaking.

A tour guide led through the prayer halls, where we got to see the world’s largest chandelier AND the largest single-piece carpet.

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 Our CIEE trips have been phenomenal, but even the average week in Sharjah can be full of surprises. Take this particular sandstorm, for example. Even the average Thursday afternoon can become something truly extraordinary.

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   Or even that one day when former President Jimmy Carter showed up on campus with the Sheikh! Casual.

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 Our time in Sharjah has already been the most rewarding experience of my life. The people I have met, food I have eaten, and places I have seen have been incomparable to anything I could ever experience back home. Every morning I am thankful I chose CIEE and thankful I chose Sharjah.

 It’s hard to believe that half of the semester has gone by! Garret Bigley, from the University of Ohio, says that in his remaining time in Sharjah he hopes to:

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“See as much of this part of the world while I'm here, improve my Arabic skills in preparation for a summer program, more shawarma, and make as many friends from the region as I can.”

04/30/2017

a bulldozer, a camel and a boat walked into ...

السلام عليكم، اسمي David17855041_1469544889736616_5899978871815400168_o

 

 

What do a bulldozer, camel meat, a boat ride, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque have in common? They were all memorable parts of our Oman trip!  

Salaam everyone! My name is David Kwan and I am a Junior Engineering major at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. I am studying abroad at through CIEE at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) for the Spring 2017 semester. This semester, our CIEE program has six students led by our CIEE Resident Director and Cultural Advisor, Abu Bakr.

We recently had our two trips to Oman, one to the mainland and another to Musandam, a governorate of Oman. Within the mainland, we traveled to Nizwa and Muscat, the capital of Oman. Both of these trips had their respective highlight moments, some more memorable than others (i.e., bulldozer in Musandam, but we'll get to that later).

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Nizwa

After a taxing eight hour bus ride from AUS, we arrive in Nizwa, Oman. By this time, we are tired and more importantly, hungry. So what better to eat after a long journey than some camel mandi.

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Camel tastes a lot like ox tail, but maybe a bit more gamey. It's a must-try experience while visiting the Middle East, even if it's just to say that you did it.

A portion of our first full day consisted of visiting a local cattle market and pottery souk. At the cattle market, goats and cows are paraded around a central area where potential buyers scope out the livestock. It's interesting to see the commodification of heritage as a cattle market can become a tourist attraction. I figure people are curious about differences, but maybe not as willing to embrace them given the demeanor of the tourists there.

 

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The pottery souk was good too, and also very photogenic.

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Note the cup of tea in the bottom left corner. This juxtaposition represents the evolution of humanity through our advancement of container technology. Truly breathtaking. But, more likely, this is just inconsiderate littering. Also breathtaking.

 

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After walking around the souk for a bit, the group headed to Nizwa Fort. I'll give a brief summary of Nizwa Fort after my 5 minute Wikipedia research session. Nizwa fort was built in by the second Ya'rubi Imam, Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'rubi. It served as a stronghold against enemy forces who were after Nizwa's natural resources.

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Inside the fort

 

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Views from the fort overlooking Nizwa

 

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#Iconic



We then head to the mud houses where we saw a demonstration of how Omani bread, perfumes, and medicinal creams are made.

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Neat!

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The second half of our day in Nizwa included a small hike to a canyon view where we encountered some friendly goats and a barbeque on the beach.

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Goat whisperer

 

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Muscat

Day 2 of our trip was in Muscat, the capital of Oman. One of the highlights of this trip would be the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Our resident Islamic Architecture enthusiast, Jake McGill, Bucknell University '18, enjoyed this portion of our trip saying, "The Sultan Qaboos was mosque was an extraordinary example of Islamic Architecture. After 2 months of living in the region, it has been my favorite example of Islamic art and the most appealing mosque I have had the opportunity to visit."

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After a brief visit to a fish market, we spent the rest of the day with a trip to the souk, a photo-op at the Sultan's Palace, and of course, dinner.

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Musandam

A week later CIEE and the International Exchange Office (IXO) head to Musandam for a "relaxing" day on the water. Musandam is a governorate of Oman that is separated from the Omani mainland. This day was definitely memorable, for many reasons.

We traveled along the coast where we made occasional stops to swim, snorkel, lay out on the beach, explore caves, go banana boating, and fishing.

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It really was a great, low-energy day. Then disaster struck.

We packed up and headed onto the bus to return to campus. While leaving the parking lot, the bus goes off-road and gets stuck in a soft spot in the dirt. We don't think much of it figuring there is protocol for this type of thing. The driver tries to accelerate us out of the dirt, but that doesn't work. Our team of engineers (also peer advisors) get off the bus. They scavenge rocks and planks of wood in attempt to give the tires more traction. By this time, the tires are pretty deep into the ground. Everyone else exits the bus in attempt to make the bus lighter. There are also talks of the bus exploding at this point, which is outright ridiculous.

 

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All of this activity draws attention from the locals and we attract a crowd. One Omani man offers to tow the bus out with his SUV. The bus driver spends about 10 minutes figuring out the best way to attach the tow to the bus. Once attached, the Omani man accelerates his SUV for a good 5 seconds and ends up killing his battery. The sun is setting, people are tired, and now this man's battery dies because of us. Our group's mindset is a healthy combination of frustration, worry, and delirium. Another car comes by and jumpstarts the car. At least we now know that this Lexus SUV isn't powerful enough to pull this 20,000 lb bus.

 

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The bus is starting to overheat and people revive talks of the bus exploding. At some point, another Omani man in a Jeep comes by and offers to get the bus out for 1000 dirhams. He says he has a special method that can get the bus out. Seems sketchy, but we're desperate at this point. It turns out his special method is towing the bus out with his Jeep. I don't think it was that special. Of course, this attempt fails as well.

The police are called, civil services are called, an actual tow truck comes by, and nothing seems to be working. At some point a bulldozer arrives. Ridiculous. The bulldozer tries to pull the bus out and ends up breaking the tow cable. Then the bulldozer attempts to lift the bus out of the dirt. This seemed like a terrible idea, and it kind of was. The bulldozer lifts the bus slightly which causes the outer frame of the bus to crack, windows break, and the bus is still stuck. At this point, the bus isn't going anywhere.

 

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We realize this, grab our belongings off the bus, and decide to walk to the Omani border in defeat. Morale is low, and we have a long hike to endure. But wait, the story does not end here. Alhamdulillah, a car passing by pulls over and offers to give us rides to the border. Alhamdulillah again because this man just so happens to have a bus that can take the whole group. Our parents told us to never get in a car with a stranger, but I'm not sure if this rule still applies while stranded in Oman. We were in a large group anyways, so I didn't feel as nervous about it.

We arrive at the border and walk through immigration. It is about 8pm and we have called for another bus to come from campus and pick us up. The bus should take 2-3 hours to reach the Omani border from Sharjah. 2-3 hours is a lifetime after this whole ordeal. We hang out next to a beach where some people watch a movie, play football, try to find snacks, sleep, and anything else they could to pass the time. Eventually the glorious savior of a bus arrives and takes us home.     

A memorable trip indeed. All of the bug bites from waiting on the beach never let me forget this trip either.

 

12/14/2016

Food is Love, Food is Life: Diary of a foodie in Sharjah

This blog is written by our foodie in house, Mahamed Barzanji from the University of Illinois at Chicago:

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Hello future UAE-study-abroad humans! My name is Mahamed Barzanji and I am a food expert when it comes to how much you will be spending on food while here at AUS. First things first: are you always hungry like me? Is planning your next meal while eating your current meal a usual occurrence?  If yes: I’ve got all the answers you need in this blog right here. From free foods, cheap foods, to must try foods even if they are expensive foods; I will cover them all. Also University city houses so many restaurants that it’s hard to decide what to get, so I will be sharing with you my favorite places to order from while doing your late night studies. Grab a bag of chips (or carrots if that's your choice of poison) and read along!

1) Campus Foods

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American University of Sharjah has a lot of foods that will remind you of home such as: Burger King, Subway, Starbucks and Subway. But Breakpoint is the food place that’s been buzzing during my semester abroad. Breakpoint serves made-by-momma feeling soul food and Chinese-style food. This is the place where group project meeting are usually held while eating a nice Nutella Cheesecake. Most meals are only 20 AED, which is like 5 bucks so it’s super affordable, too!

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And it’s super easy to cool yourself off during the hotter days with 1 AED cones from Burger King. Can't stress how handy these were during the summer months.

2) Campus Grocery Stores

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 The Sharjah Co-Op Society is, in my opinion, the cheapest place to have a meal… even if it may not be a so healthy one. There are two on campus: one near the Men’s dorm and one near the Women’s dorm. Here you can fulfill your everyday grocery needs, or like me, get a long pack of Oreos, a cheese croissant, and two iCafe drinks for about 10 AED in total. Seriously, the days that I just had barely enough money to survive this place would be my home.

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But of course, you can still be healthy at the Co-Op! They have baby carrots and cucumbers that are usually fresh daily and meats that you can microwave back at the dorms. 

 

It also has anything else you think you’d need from school supplies to toiletries. Think of it as your Walgreens away from home.

 

And if you’re worried about eating healthy, don't be. I actually went vegan for two days while abroad and it was super easy (don't ask me why). Near campus is a huger Sharjah Co-Op that is similar to Wal-Mart. There, you’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables as far as the eye can see. There is a free shuttle on campus that can take you there as well.

 

3) Foods around Campus – Orderable

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 Musk is my absolute favorite place to grab a bite and it’s only a walk away from campus. This place is not as cheap as other options but it is by no means expensive. My friends and I come here so often that the workers and cooks know us on sight. A usual meal here would cost around 35 AED.

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Something that you ABSOLUTELY MUST try at Musk is the Maybe Nutella Monster Chocolate Shake: It is a sweet tooth’s lover heaven. They can even deliver the shake too!

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But when it comes to delivery, the winner is Al Shamayil. This place is super cheap and sells a combination of Arab dishes and Indian dishes. I always go for the Poratas or Arabic Shawarma because they are super fulfilling yet easy on the wallet.

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Just like Musk, this place is only a walk away on Karak Street where most of University cities food places are held.

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Other honorable mentions are Al Nawaier Al Shamiah and New Emirates Home. These places have delicious Rocket Shawarmas and to die for Mendi (rice and meat).

4) Free Food

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Man oh man… The amount of opportunities to eat free food during my semester here was out of this world. My favorite week of food was the AUS Club Fair, where all the clubs would bring out their cultures signature dishes and serve them for free in the Student’s Center. Be careful not to go overboard like I did, or else you’ll find that your jeans don't fit anymore.

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The IXO office at AUS always brings out donuts on every study abroad student’s birthday, and when the amount of students studying abroad is about 50, it will start to feel like there’s donuts at IXO 24/7.

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IXO not only provides free donuts on birthdays, but the amazing staff also brings in pizza or rice with chicken every now and then.

IXO also takes you on plenty of free dinners and engagements with free food (and this is on top of what CIEE is providing) so I doubt you’ll ever be starving for a decent meal.

 

5) CIEE-Provided Food

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Your CIEE Resident Director will not give you the chance to starve, for he will feed you and provide food in his office as if it were the holiday’s everyday. I am truly thankful for having Abu Bakr Al Ani as an adviser but also as a friend because friends don't let friends get hungry.

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There’s this thing called CIEE Tuesdays, it might be on a different day for other semesters but the end goal is the same. You will be fed. Abu Bakr is a  guy who knows where to get the hidden food-gems and the cultural foods that you’d otherwise not get the chance to try will feed you. Of course you won’t only eat because there will be an activity but to a food junkie like me… the food is all that matters.

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Abu Bakr also provides snacks, teas and coffees in his office at all times. So if you’re ever in a rush to class and don't have time for breakfast, drop by his office and he’ll surely have some goods that’ll satisfy your hunger. His instant coffees were lifesavers during hectic mornings and stressful evenings.

And PSA: Snacks are snacks, not meals. It took me awhile to learn that but it was eventually drilled into my skull.

Now that you’ve read my blog on the foods available to you at AUS, what will your next meal be?


Young and Hungry,

Mahamed Barzanji

 

 

 

 

11/15/2016

Fall oh me into the Desert!

By Hanan Mohamed, Occidental College, LA.

Marhaban! My name is Hanan Mohamed and I am a junior Diplomacy and World Affairs major at Occidental College in Los Angeles. I am participating in the the CIEE program at the American University of Sharjah and we have officially reached the halfway mark of studying abroad in the United Arab Emirates! We are a group of 9 students who regularly spend time together both informally and through trips and events organized by Abu Bakr, our CIEE Resident Director. I would like to share with you some of the unique experiences we have shared together so far!

Movie nights: (Various Tuesday nights)  

 

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Every couple of weeks, the Abu Bakr hosts a movie night for us, usually including pizza. Some of the movies we’ve watched so far are Hassan wa Morcus, Monsieur Ibrahim, and Assal Aswed. A common theme for these movies has been cross-cultural exchange, often in a humorous way. These movies are always a nice escape in the middle of the week from studying and most of the time these films include very similar situations that we experience as students studying abroad in an Arab country.

Invisible Cities Performance: (9/21)

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For this event, after eating dinner together, we attended a performance on campus called Invisible Cities. The performance was based on a series of monologues that deal with topics such as homesickness, the refugee crisis,  and a constant search for a place to call home. There may have been a few tears shed.

 

Alserkal Lates Art Exhibits (9/26)

 

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Liz Bova ‘18 from Rochester Institute of Technology admires one of the many art exhibits

 

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This event was a great opportunity to experience Dubai’s artistic side. The art displayed ranged from portraits to sculptures to short films. Each art gallery had a unique vibe and represented everything from topics such as globalization and the Arab Spring as well as modern and abstract works. Many of the exhibits offered food and drinks, and some gave out samples of handmade art pieces.

 

Al-Hijra Lecture and Injera in Dubai (10/4)

 

Injera is a dish found in Eritrea and Ethiopia, is served with various meat and vegetable stews and is eaten with the hands.

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Following the long Hijra weekend, Abu Bakr offered a lecture explaining the significance of the Islamic Calendar and New Year. This lecture was open to all exchange students, and was very informative. Following the lecture, the CIEE group went out to Dubai to try Injera, a traditional dish commonly eaten in East Africa.

Kushari Dinner and Football match between Al Ahli Dubai and Dibba Fujairah (10/22)

 

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Kushari- Egyptian dish typically served with a tomato sauce or lemon vinaigrette.

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This event was personally one of my favorites so far. The group was able to try Kushari, a traditional Egyptian dish including pasta, lentils, chickpeas, and fried onions. It was one of the most delicious (and filling!) meals I’ve had since being in the UAE. We then headed over to the Ahli Club Dubai stadium, where we were greeted with a goodie bag filled with Ahli Club gear. We were then seated and were able to enjoy the match versus Fujairah. Traditional chants were sung throughout the game, and we all cheered as Dubai scored a goal, and eventually won the game.

 

Cooking Lesson in Sharjah with Mona and Hysum (10/25)

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Maha Gaber and Zenab Ahmed ‘17 of Siena College assist our host Mona in preparing Kofta

Kabobs

 

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Mahamed Barazanji ‘19 of University of Illinois at Chicago and Hanan Mohamed ‘18 of Occidental College help prepare chicken wings.

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Homemade samosas!

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For this event, the CIEE group went off campus to the home of Mona and Hysum, two former AUS students. There, we were divided into groups to work on different dinner and dessert preparations. In addition to more traditional dishes like samosas and kofta kabobs, we also made chicken wings (breaded with crushed Doritos) and puff pastries, one of Abu Bakr’s specialties. Mona and Hysum were both so welcoming and hospitable and cooking together was a great bonding experience. We then watched Assal Eswed, a popular Egyptian movie, together.

Al Ain (10/28)

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After an early start to the day, a bus full of exchange students arrived in Al Ain, about a 2 hour drive from campus. Here, there were a wide range of activities available included swimming in the natural hot springs. Students also took advantage of the mountains and hiked for a beautiful view of the area. Together, we enjoyed a BBQ prepared by Abu Bakr including delicious burgers and chicken.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what we’ve been up to so far! And stay tuned for more events throughout the semester.

Masalama!

Hanan Mohamed

 

05/09/2016

A CIEE weekend in Bahrain

Frank Chietro of Siena College is telling us about the experience he is having with CIEE Sharjah in general as well as the trip he made with the rest of the CIEE Spring students to the Kingdom of Bahrain!


            Overall, the CIEE experience was amazing due to the cultural involvement it had provided in not only in the United Arab of Emirates but also in other Muslim countries. From Arabian cuisine to traditional Arab dress, the United Arab of Emirates had offered many opportunities to experience the culture. Traditional Arabian diet consisted of dishes with grilled meats like lamb, beef, chicken or goat served with rice and a unique sauce depending on the origin of the dish. More importantly, the cuisines are often centuries old and can be connected to the past culture of trading in spices, herbs, and even foods. The experience of being able to observe traditional Arab outfits contributed to my cultural emersion. Kandoras are worn by men and are usually seen in the color white while the Hijabs are black and are typically worn by women.

Dubai itself is simply amazing when comparing its growth from 1991 to 2012. The city itself offers many tourist attractions such as beautiful hotels and beaches, waterparks, boat excursions and even activities like bungee jumping and skydiving. Dubai, after sunset, transforms into a beautifully lite metropolis that can attract the eye for miles upon miles. For a more traditional cultural experience, the Emirate of Sharjah has much to offer. Museums display the culture of Islam while the souks are littered with shops at every corner waiting for tourist to enter. There are also many historical sights that are scattered throughout the Emirate. Here is only a glimpse of what the United Arab of Emirates has to offer as far as cultural means.

            CIEE’s program placed its students, including myself, within the walls of the number one ranked school in the United Arab of Emirates, the American University of Sharjah. The campus offers classes from engineering to mass communication while also providing an ethnically diverse student body. The school runs a college fair along with student elections and other activities. The college fair allows AUS students to meet potential employers or even open a gateway to a summer internship. Inside the classroom at AUS, students are challenged in their respective fields while also enjoying a relative small class size that proves to be helpful when it comes to questions and personal connections to the professor(s). The campus also provides a beautiful design of traditional Islamic architecture at can be admired at every corner. The program through CIEE allowed for a truly new experience on a campus far from home.

            The CIEE trip to Bahrain was truly a great experience. Traveling to Arab countries has always been a desire of mine and I was thrilled that CIEE allowed us the opportunity to go. Most importantly, we had lunch at a traditional Iraqi restaurant in Bahrain and I really enjoyed the authentic meal and the cultural décor. The restaurant itself had a great ambience and cultural feel, which proved in enhancing the experience. I was able to learn more about traditional Iraqi cuisine like Dolma, which is made from grape leaves and a stuffing that may include tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic and sometimes meat. We also visited the Bahrain International Circuit but unfortunately there were no races in progress. It was still worthwhile to see the track and all it had to offer. Another memorable experience was the Bahrain Mosque where we were able to observe an alternate architectural design in comparison to the traditional mosques seen all over the United Arab of Emirates. Moreover, having the privilege to see the Tree of Life and also the Qal’at Al-Bahrain fort allowed for a better experience and a greater emersion into the cultural. Qal’at Al-Bahrain provided myself and other students a glimpse of ancient Islamic history. To finish off the trip, we had a traditional Bahraini meal that was truly fantastic. Overall, the CIEE trip to Bahrain proved to be an excellent experience that provided everyone with further cultural emersion and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

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                                                   (Tree of Life)

 

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                                              (Qal’at Al-Bahrain fort)

 

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                                                   (Bahrain Mosque)

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                                                 (Green building)

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                                                 (Bahrain Circuit) 

03/21/2016

A Japanese tennis champion in an American university in Sharjah!

This is the story of our own Miwa Yamanaka, a current CIEE student at American University of Sharjah.
She came here to obtain linguistic skills, cultural insights and new friends .. but she never thought that she will be obtaining trophies as well!
lets hear it from the Champ ..

Hi I am Miwa! I am enjoying my second semester at AUS under the nice weather of UAE. Today, I would like to talk about my experience in AUS tennis team. AUS has many sports teams such as soccer, volleyball and cricket. It is easy even for exchange students to join the sports team. I have registered for the tennis team since last semester, and one of my friends in CIEE is now joining in track & fields team as well. At the beginning of the semester, everybody receives the email about tryouts of sports team. I remember that when I visited sports complex to join the tryouts in the last semester, there was no tryout because only few girls play tennis here and there was no coach for girls team. In addition, tennis courts were demolished for renewal right after I came here. Although it does not seem the perfect situation to play tennis here, I fortunately met some girls who love tennis. Then, we started to go and practice at Sharjah Ladies Club (sports club near campus) before the tournaments. It is so different to join tennis team here compared to my home school in Japan. Here in AUS, they provide team members uniform, sweat shirt, bag, shoes, everything!! They even provide the bus to the tournament site and pay for the meal on the day. Last Sunday, I had a tournament in Ajman, which is another emirate next to Sharjah. The school bus had been supposed to leave AUS at 2pm, but it didn’t come on time. I was upset because I though we wouldn’t be able to join the tournament if we couldn’t make it on time. In Japan, we would default in tournament for any reason unless signing up in the reception 15 minutes prior to the match. We finally left school at 2:30, and arrived at tennis courts 5 minutes late. On the way to tennis courts, one of my friends told me “Don’t worry, it is not Japan here. We understand Arabic time”. I was still in hurry, but exactly as she said, there was still nobody in the courts!! After one and half hour, we finally found somebody responsible for the tournament and we started the game. After the singles game, we were supposed to have doubles game next. However, a girl in the opponent school said that we needed to do doubles game later because her partner was playing basketball now. I had never heard such excuse before, but there was no other way to delay the doubles game. So we waited another 2 hours watching basketball. At the time when we restarted our tournament, it was already too dark to play tennis and the light in the court was broken. But we restarted, and luckily (?) we won all the games in the dark!!

Overall, it might seem like an awful day to be kept waiting for some hours, but I actually enjoyed it. Generally, I could say people here are tolerant to individual’s situation, and flexible to deal with new circumstances. Back home, everything is very organized but it is true that people are not willing to listen to personal opinions in most cases. Also, what made me happy was a fancy ending ceremony, a big trophy and medals!! All’s Well That Ends WellJ

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02/14/2016

Week of Goodbyes, miss you's and see you laters

This past week has been full of goodbyes, I’ll miss you’s, and see you laters. Watching the people you have become so close with over the semester leave is difficult but it makes you realize how worth it studying abroad really is.

Oman! what a place

The first trip where I really realized how incredible this experience really is was the Oman weekend trip. During this weekend, we visited Nizwa and Muscat, which are two beautiful cities located in Oman. This trip was full of multiple cultural activities as well as some incredible experiences you probably wouldn’t get anywhere else. We visited Jebel Shams which is the highest mountain peak in Oman where we had lunch. Can you imagine having lunch at the top of a mountain? It was pretty sick. On the way down we visited the Grand Canyon where we ran into cute little mountain goats. My other favorite site we visited was the palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. This place was so breathtaking and unreal.

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Musandam is a MUST!

Later, we took another trip to Oman, but this time we visited Musandam for a boat trip. This was probably my favorite trip of the entire semester. We spent the day out at sea where everyone could go swimming, snorkeling, etc.

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Sand in your hair!
The next group trip we took was an overnight desert safari. Here, you were able to ride a camel, go sand boarding, go sand dune bashing, get henna, and enjoy some live entertainment as well as a campfire.

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Weddings here are something else!

While being here, learning about the Emirati culture was a huge goal for me. During the semester, a very sweet Emirati girl invited everyone in IXO to attend her relative’s wedding. This wedding turned out to be very different than the typical wedding you would imagine, but it was still so beautiful.

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Festive season in the desert

Of course while being here, many holidays passed by such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. For Thanksgiving, IXO put together a dinner for everyone to attend so we could still have that piece of home here with us. For Christmas, a cute holiday party was put together where everyone bought gifts and exchanged them anonymously.

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We ended up on a high note .. like REALLY HIGH!

Our final trip as a CIEE group was our farewell dinner which included a trip to the Burj Khalifa. Here we said goodbye to our members who were to soon be going home, Inshirah and Tarik. Two incredible people we were all so fortunate to meet.

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Best times Ever! lets do this again

Is studying abroad worth it? Sometimes you’ll miss home. You’ll miss your friends, and your family, but CIEE makes the UAE feel like a home. The experiences you will receive, the people you will meet, it is all worth it in the end. Would I do this again? Heck yeah. In fact, I loved this semester so much, I extended my study abroad experience into the Spring semester. The experiences and people you meet here are truly unforgettable.

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“So I guess it ends here, we’ll go our separate ways and hope that we’ll see each other somewhere in the future”

11/02/2015

Welcome to Sharjah! Fall 2015

Hello good people!
This time our blog was written by our one and only Miwa Yamanaka from International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan.

Below are her words, enjoy them as I did.

Best Regards,
Abu Bakr Al Ani,
Resident Director
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Hi, I’m Miwa Yamanaka, from International Christian University in Tokyo. Since I have been interested in Arabic culture for long time, I was looking for the one-year exchange program in a place where I can study Arabic language and culture in the Middle East. I was so pleased when I found this program is available from my home university in Japan, because I had known that AUS was one of the most notable educational institutions in the region. My parents were not happy with me going to somewhere unfamiliar at first, but courteous support of CIEE successfully released their anxiety. Now, I really appreciate my family to send me off with having a great understanding of my studying abroad.

 

The first week was full of discovery. I was finding my feet at first, but every orientation and site seeing made me get used to this exotic country. My favorite part was day out in Sharjah with the whole IXO (International Exchange Office) group. Honestly speaking, I thought Sharjah would be like spin-off of Dubai. But it did even better than was expected. In the north part of Sharjah, we could see beautiful lagoons with numbers of modern buildings. I enjoyed Lebanese lunch with the nice view and my new friends from all over the world. Also, Sharjah is a city putting efforts in cultural preservation. There are a variety of museums, where I have visited so far are school, marine time, car, and heritage museums. But I am still long away from completing to see them all.

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The orientation week flew by. It was great opportunity to learn about a new city, people, and life here. By the way, scorching sun, humidity and Arabic eating habits made me lose 4 pounds in the first week. Having a big lunch around 2-3pm kept me away from dinner.

 

CIEE scavenger hunt was also memorable. Inshirah and I were happy with shopping at beautiful underground souk in WAFI mall, where we unexpectedly found. The last destination, Abu Bakr’s favorite Iranian buffet restaurant, concluded our exploration in Dubai. 

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  This photo, taken on the first day of my being in Sharjah, always reminds me the mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety for my new life here at AUS. I had never thought this small simple empty shared room has been already fulfilled with a number of memories I had in the past one month. 

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I am so grateful for having an Arab student as my roommate from the perspective of cultural experience. My roommate is a freshman of AUS from Egypt. Before living with her, I had never seen Muslim people actually praying. Also, I was surprised when she asked me for advise on her hairstyle because I am the only one who see her hair!! (Following Islamic hijab, She covers her hair with scarf outside room.) Every single thing is a new lesson for me to learn. I recently enjoyed making Egyptian breakfast with her on a Friday morning, on which we do not have classes. There are three important roles for me, watching how to cook, eat well and wash dishes. These are brief introductions of my dorm life.

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As AUS secretly stands for “Always Under Stress” among students here, I spend most of the time on hitting the books throughout weekdays. However, there are constantly many activities held on campus, such as dorm gathering and cultural sessions. Here, I have to mention the club fair we had in the end of September.

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Around 50 clubs from cultural to interest-based clubs set up each booth in the student center. They offered foods and some entertainment for registration of new students. Of course I joined Japanese club as an exchange from Japan, but also registered clubs as many as I cannot list up. I cannot wait for upcoming events they are going to have.

 

In the middle of September, we had a week off from school for Eid Al Adha. One of my best memories during this break was Abu Dhabi trip. Abu Bakr introduced me his Syrian friend, Shaman, who has Japanese wife and 9 months baby living in Abu Dhabi. Thus, I decided to visit them on this occasion. Since AUS does not have another Japanese student, I was so happy to speak Japanese and watch Japanese TV at their home after a long time of not doing so. I was also happy to visit Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque at night with gorgeous light up. I felt blessed to go there at night during Eid because that was one of my must-do things in UAE. Their warm hospitality, incredible view of Mosque, and lovely baby made me happy so much.

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I am thankful to Abu Bakr for finding me an amazing Arabic tutor. I have 90 minutes Arabic lessons with a local student twice a week. My tutor is Bayan, an AUS junior from Syria. As an elementary Arabic learner, it is absolutely hard for me to keep the all conversation in Arabic. But she is patient enough to hear me out, and I believe it must help me to improve my Arabic conversation skills. Also, it is amazing to have her friends joining us sometimes.

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Not to mention, people at AUS are so friendly and always welcoming. Since the first day when arriving to AUS, I am always surrounded by somebody who lends a hand to me. Whenever you go to IXO, staff and peer advisors are always welcoming us with hospitality of hot coffee and donuts. My favorite place is CIEE advisor Abu Bakr’s office, a place where I can access to quality Iraqi tea and dates bar. 

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These two cakes are treats from my friend in anthropology class, with wishes for celebrating Eid Al Adha. As can be seen, nice foods and warm hospitality never make me feel lonely at AUS!!

 

Overall, I believe that there was no mistake for my decision to join this program. I want to conclude this blog with my great excitement of upcoming CIEE Oman trip in the next weekend!! 

 

01/26/2015

What was that Fall about!

This blog was written by, Mikaela Boston. Rock climber, a Taekwondo instructor and a scout among other things!
Though in her free time she is a full year student from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities:

Face

The Little Things

As the semester draws to a close it’s a fantastic time to look back at the things we have done in the last couple of months here in the desert.  Since the overnight safari in early November our CIEE clan has been just as busy as ever before.  Within the week following the safari we attended a performance of Antony and Cleopatra in which one of our own CIEE students was a stage manager and several IXO students were acting in the play itself (Nov 11) we went to the Sharjah Book Fair (Nov 12), where you can find more Arabic books than anywhere else (at least as far as I’ve seen), and).  And finally, on the day before Thanksgiving, we visited the Emirati Cultural Centre where we learned about some of the culture and were able to have henna done and watched Dabke dancing (Nov 26)

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Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, the International Exchange Office (AKA IXO)  hosted a dinner at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club. 

 

Spending Thanksgiving away from family for the first time with 7,200 miles between you is definitely an experience you are never likely to forget and will forever make you even more thankful for the time you do get to spend with your family.  But beyond that it makes you realize how thankful you should be for the experience you are having so far from home and family.  Thanksgiving is when it really clicked for me that this is home too, and I have family here now.  I have friends who made sure I was not alone for a family focused holiday.  It didn’t matter that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, they kept me busy all day with a bowling match, then billiards, and finally I was off to Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of international students.  I admit, I have never thought of having Thanksgiving dinner at a shooting club. 

 

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National Day and Global Village

 

This year for National Day on December 2nd AUS cancelled classes for three class days, that’s right, that’s not counting the weekend.  Five days without classes.  Of course the main campus had a huge event going on with food stalls, live performances of singing, dancing, poetry, and lots of crazy lights everywhere.  During this break we went for an outing to Global Village.  Global Village is a giant tourist trap if ever there was one.  Covering around 395 acres.  The, for lack of a better word, park is a representation of the major countries around the world (except African countries, all of Africa is “Africa”).  It is reminiscent of Disney’s World’s Epcot.  Every country has its own setting, food, merchandise, and feel to it.  From spices and honey in “Yemen” to carved figurines in “Africa” you can find just about anything you could think of while wandering around the world in a day.

 

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BBQ in the Al-Ain

 

What better way to celebrate the break than to head out to Al-Ain for some great food and time to mess around.  It was great to see some elevation and have rocks to climb around on.  Climbing, hiking, hot-springs, a few rounds of the game “Mafia” and fantastic food were just some of the highlights of the trip.  It was definitely that time of the semester where everyone needed a day to relax and get off campus for a while. 

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Al Ahli sports club

 

Football time!  No, not an early superbowl, that’s for “hand-oval.”  No, this was a CIEE outing to Ahli sports club to watch a football game, from the VIP section.  We were able to walk the red carpet and everything to get to the VIP area with free snacks, a lounge, etc.  It made us feel a bit pampered.  Then we stopped off for some Egyptian Kushari followed by Iraqi tea, the latter is always enjoyable. 

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  Dec 12 – Musandam

 

Words for Musandam?  Boats, cliffs, swimming, coves, fun, open air, refreshing, vastness.  Spending the day out on a boat, or jumping off the second deck of said boat, was a relaxing experience much different than anything we had done so far. 

 

As one fellow international students said:

 

“Openness in ocean, mountain coast, and sky. After being surrounded by the buildings and atmosphere of Musundam, Oman was a great reprieve. The swimming, snorkeling and boat rides were as memorable as casually lounging about the boat and playing cards. A very enjoyable trip and I would definitely go again ”.

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 Dec 17 - Burj Khalifa & Farewell dinner

 

Our last big CIEE event was exciting, fun, unique, and of course sad.  We went to the tallest building in the world and went up to the highest observation deck to look out over the web of light that is Dubai at night. 

 

After the Burj Khalifa we went to dinner at Al-Fanar restaurant for some traditional Emirati cuisine. 

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Personal adventures

 

In addition to the CIEE and IXO events there were of course some personal adventures out to the desert, and the malls, and of course spending New Year’s Eve in Dubai.  Some of my experiences included ice-skating at Dubai Mall, an aerial obstacle course and rock-climbing, finding a way to the roof of a friend’s apartment to watch the fireworks at Burj Khalifa and Burj al-Arab, and some trips out to walk in the sand dunes. 

 

Adventures have become exceedingly less frequent since finals have started, professors love to keep us busy.  I do get to look forward to my family coming for the semester break and being able to share some of this incredible adventure with them.  Lucky them, they get to escape the Minnesota winter for a couple of weeks and spend some time in a desert winter instead, a bit different than what they are used to in January. 

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This last image by Mikaela was the spectacular Burj Khalifa During the New  Year  celebrations. This is how UAE concluded an eventful year and received a new one. We at CIEE also would like to celebrate the Fall 14 cohort and wish them all the best in their lives as well as celebrate our incoming cohort of Spring  15  arriving in 10 days!

Stay tuned to know more about Mikaela and her new CIEE colleagues for the Spring semester

  End

Abu Bakr Al Ani

CIEE resident Director – Sharjah UAE

 

 

11/11/2014

Transculturals: the advent of the fall

Oman - grand canion

 

This blog was written by our one and only, Wang (Nancy) Fang. A student from Rochester University and the current watermelon eating queen of American University of Sharjah

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Freshmen Year All Over Again

            In September, a group of American students flew from all over the US to the UAE in hopes of exploring the cultural richness the UAE has to offer. Either by pigeon, jetpack, or airplane, they all safely arrived at the UAE to be welcomed by the smoldering sun the Middle East has to offer. Although the heat took some getting used to, the sight of palm trees everywhere juxtaposed with the busy streets was a sight to behold. The first cultural shock we all experienced, or at least mine, was the fact that men held hands or linked their fingers together as a sign of friendship. Even after two months of being in the UAE, the sight still surprises me, but it also shows the closeness between males and the value they place on friendship.

 

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Soudi day - on campus

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            Normally, orientation is just an introduction to student life, but at the American University of Sharjah, the International Exchange Office took us around Sharjah and Dubai throughout the first two weeks to help us navigate and understand life in the Emirates. Not only did we visit all of the museums in Sharjah and Dubai, we were also treated to a traditional Emirati breakfast. Seated around a spacious room decorated with patterned rugs and pillows, we all ate on the floor next to each other. Throughout our travels, I often saw families eating in a similar style, which I might even adapt back in the U.S, since it has the effect of bringing a group of people closer.

 

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            Not only did I encounter cultural shock, the cultural lock was also strong within the classrooms. Many of us could not figure out which direction the doors opened, myself included, and we struggled until we finally realized that only one door opened. I also had trouble with desks and I actually tried to crawl into one from underneath. Turns out, you had to lift up the desk on top of the chair in order to get in. However, now that I am more settled in, I am getting to know students from all over world, be it Emiratis, Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians, Pakistanis, and even expats.

 

Suzy Sikorski, Aspiring Gallery Owner from Fordham University, stated: 

“Embarking on a year-long journey halfway across the world comes with its upsets, excitements and fears. My family has little knowledge of Middle Eastern culture—it’s language, food, religion, or literature. I chose to enroll in CIEE’s AUS program to build a cultural dialogue between the West and the Middle East. I hope to act as a liaison between my family and friends back at home, with the people I meet here. I am happy to be a part of the CIEE program. Within the IXO students, CIEE offers a smaller close knit group of people I can travel and feel comfortable with. Abu Bakr has really taken the time to understand each student and is so passionate in showing us his customs. He always comments on my love for art, and had even included traveling to art gallery exhibitions in a scavenger hunt around Dubai. I was also able to see much Omani art when we traveled to Oman. This was a perfect weekend to become closer with the group. I feel the level of comfort I received in CIEE has helped me find my own opportunities in the UAE. My passions for Art History and International Relations have led me towards a career choice of working in the art business in the Middle East. I am currently interning at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai during the week, where I work with artists and help write publications for upcoming exhibitions and artist bios. I am also able to have the opportunity to work with a NYC Middle Eastern art gallery at Art Abu Dhabi in November. CIEE has provided an engaging atmosphere for a perfect transition from NYC to the UAE. As all things will come to an end in January, I do feel this is just the beginning of my future spent in the UAE!”

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The Fated Goat Encounter

            Led by Abu Bakr, we went on our adventurous expedition into the land of Oman, where we encountered deadly goats, easily annoyed cattle, terrifying heights, and spooky castles. In true Arab style, we rented a van and proceeded to fall asleep on it instead singing and playing guitar like Abu Bakr had expected. Oh boy, we did not disappoint him the next day though, not only did we encounter mountain goats that needed to be fed decades ago, I also had the opportunity to sit on goat poop. We also visited Nizwa Fort, and I was impressed by the simple architecture outside, and how it contrasted with the intricate designs on the inside.

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Mikaela Boston, Taekwondo Expert from University of Minnesota, stated:

“As crazy as this first month in Sharjah has been, one of the most fun, incredible events we have done was a weekend trip to Oman. The timing of the event was perfect in that people were finally settled in to the life here so we could really enjoy the time away and the sights without feeling quite as overwhelmed as we were during orientation, plus it was really nice to be outside of a city again.

My favorite part was going up to Jabel Shams to see the grand canyon of Oman. The view was spectacular and the being outside and away from city life was fantastic. It was refreshing in its own way and very different than any of the other experiences I have had since coming here. In stark contrast to the mountain was the Grand Mosque we visited later on. The mosque is very beautiful with the different textures and feelings displayed in the architecture. The warmth of the wood combined with the bright white marble, vibrant mosaics, and huge crystal chandelier give the mosque an elegance beyond anything I have ever seen before. The mountain and canyon had a natural splendor, but this mosque was pure artistic brilliance.”

 

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We learned the true meaning of what happens in Oman stays in Oman, and in our case, my memory of toilet-paperless bathrooms shall remain with Oman. All jokes aside, Oman’s abundance of fresh produce and significant historical landmarks painted Oman as a very lively country.


 

 

 “What’s a salad?”

            Something that I am extremely grateful for is the presence of dates, nuts, and exotic products that I have never seen before. As a New Yorker, I have seen my fair share of imported products from other countries, but UAE continues to amaze me with its range of snacks and dried goods, not to mention creative ways of combining various products with amazing results.                      

Abu Bakr, the fine gentleman that he is, took us to a hidden gem within the car rental district in Dubai, and introduced us to traditional Egyptian food. Despite the strange combination of pasta, rice, and lentils, the food definitely satisfied our taste buds, and allowed me to check off one more thing on my food bucket list. One thing I learned so far from food in the UAE is that everything will be perfectly seasoned, bread and salads included. If you were a vegetarian before, the food in the UAE will convert into a true meat believer.

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Shane Linehan, Squash Master from Siena College, stated:

“The CIEE experience is one that I will surly appreciate for years to come. There are so many things to take away from this experience that you can't just get from anywhere but the UAE. Aside from the great people in my program and the one and only Abu Bakr, you are given an opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Now understand that I am originally from the States so I know what I'm talking about when I say the UAE is a cultural melting pot. One thing I'd like to highlight about CIEE is that it is by far the best option for studying abroad in the middle east as there are so many scheduled outings and such that make your experience here all the more noteworthy. Anyone looking to broaden their horizon, enjoy great food (hope you like rice) and have fun doing it, CIEE is the program for you."

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05/29/2014

Spring is over

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Back to study could be hard, especially after a nice spring break. Nicole Kollman of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities agrees:

“Despite the remarkable trips to Turkey, Greece, South Africa, and India, that CIEE students had, we were grounded by the reality that Spring Break marked the “half way point” of our time here in the UAE. We all agreed that the first half of the semester flew by, but thus far, this second half has done just the same, especially since it has been filled with CIEE activities. One day was spent on a boat in Musandam, Oman, where we, along with the other exchange students at AUS, enjoyed a day in the sun with jumping off the boat, swimming, snorkeling, rock climbing, fishing, and enjoying one another’s company. Despite the few jellyfish stings, it was a trip to remember. Another activity was the group trip to Al-Ain. We visited the hot springs and took a peaceful day climbing the hills, grilling out, and again, taking the much needed relaxation time that all of us students deserve. Our most recent CIEE outing was the visit to the top, rather observation deck, of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Most of us have never visited the tallest building in the world, and the views simply left us speechless. To reflect on the semester as a whole and to be able to sum it up in one paragraph would be quite the feat, so I leave it with this: we are going to have a serious, bittersweet goodbye coming up.”

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Kamra Hakim from Arizona State University had a harder time getting back into the school mode, since she had a special royal trip of her own:

“At the beginning of my semester abroad at American University of Sharjah, I made a life changing decision to enroll in Sheikh Mansoor Bin Tahnoon Al Nehayan’s political science course. I have to say; it was one of the best decisions of my life, as I have learned so much just from sitting with him for 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. Since the semester is quickly coming to a close, I asked him if he would be willing to sit down for dinner with two other exchange students and I. Little did I know that I was in for a big surprise. After being picked up by his driver, we arrived in his estate in Al-Ain. We waited in his majlis as Sheikh Mansoor and his son arrived by helicopter. My favorite part about the experience was lunch. We ate with our hands, and it felt so natural and refreshing. Not to mention, the traditional Emirati meal was phenomenal. I enjoyed it so much, that I hope to incorporate it into my daily life. After a hefty meal, we enjoyed cake and then headed out in the truck to tour the farm. The first thing I noticed was how happy the animals were. They were treated very well and responded to engaging with us, especially the camels! It was easy to notice how intent Sheikh Mansoor is about tending to and caring for his family and his land. We were blown away when we returned from touring the farm, and Sheikh Mansoor asked us if we wanted to fly in the helicopter! It was such a thrill! I have never been in a helicopter before, not has anyone been able to change my life in such a short amount of time. Before we concluded our time with Sheikh Mansoor, his sons drove us around the open land in 4x4 to see the wild animals! It was so exciting! Just when we thought our tip to Al-Ain couldn’t get any better, Sheikh Mansoor said that he wanted us to go to the mall with his driver and pick out any gifts that we wanted! We cried. We couldn’t believe the hospitality and generosity. Besides getting spoiled, I am blessed to have Sheikh Mansoor be part of my study abroad experience. He is an incredible and intelligent human being and I thank God for making him part of my journey."

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Mary William, another CIEE student from University of Rochester, had her of mind on the rewarding volunteering experience that she had:

“One of the most rewarding experiences I've had here was volunteering at the Learning Enhancement Center. Volunteers at LEC conduct English speaking sessions with students who need to take their English language exams in order to start their major courses. Throughout this semester, I had the opportunity to speak to many students about their lives, families, friends and what they liked to do in their spare time. We even played a few fun and intense rounds of Taboo! I learned so much about life in the UAE (and life in the students' home countries) by hearing about their experiences. I think I gained more from this experience than what I gave and that was the best surprise for me.”

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As the summer heat starts to fall upon us, so does the end of the semester. It is this time of the year when students are seen less in the student center and more in the library holding their books. We wish all a successful end of term exam and a safe return to home with bags full of artifacts and hearts full of love for this sandy corner of the world.

You shall be missed, but surely never forgotten!

Alice, Almas, Colin, Erin, Kamra, Mary, Masih, Nichole, Nicole, Ornella, Paige and Safia ... Thank you!

 

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