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.”
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."
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.”
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!