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.
Abu Bakr Al Ani,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!