I’ve been in the UAE for a little over a week now! It’s crazy how time flies. It seems like it was just yesterday when I was saying goodbye to my friends and family in Minneapolis. Well, it’s been a very eventful week. The exchange office(we call it IXO) planned a very jam packed orientation week. Thanks to them, I definitely recovered from my jet lag fairly quickly. We’ve explored Dubai and Sharjah very thoroughly. A quick logistical point- the American University of Sharjah(AUS), which is the university I am studying at, is located within University City in the emirate of Sharjah. Most people recognize Dubai because it’s become pretty well-known within the past few years but I am NOT living there. However, both emirates are quite different from each other. I will share the differences in a separate blog posts in the coming weeks.
I’ve had the chance to buy a few abayah’s from the traditional souq’s. Bargaining has been a bit tough with the language barrier but I think I’ve improved from the first time that I tried. The souq’s are incredibly beautiful both in Sharjah and Dubai. The really cool thing is that you can get traditional sweets and candies from people just walking around for pretty cheap!
Through out the week, we also went to Dubai mall (the largest mall in the world), Palm Jumeriah (the man-made islands shaped as a palm tree), Dubai Marina, and lots of museums and heritage centers. We learned a lot about Emirati culture and cultural norms in the UAE. One of the most surprising things I learned was that the population in the UAE is only about 17% Emirati’s. Over 80% of the residents are expatriates. This reflects the makeup of the student body at AUS as well. In a country where there is such a mixture of cultures and backgrounds- I’m excited to meet people from all over the world!
That basically sums up orientation week. I begin classes tomorrow (on a Sunday), which is when the week starts here. Friday and Saturday are the weekends. This is going to be a hard adjustment, but we’ll see how it goes! Hopefully I won’t wake up early on Friday to go to classes even though it’s going to be the weekend J