So you’ve decided to study abroad, but now comes the tough part. Where do you go? Choosing the perfect destination was probably the most difficult process of my study abroad experience. I decided that I wanted to venture out of the norm. I wanted to experience more than one culture. Luckily, the United Arab Emirates was just the place I was looking for - and it could be for you too.
Not many students think about the Middle East as their ideal study abroad region, but here are some benefits of studying in the United Arab Emirates.
1. You can learn a great deal about Islamic religion and have a greater appreciation for it
I knew absolutely nothing about Muslims before coming to the U.A.E., but now I understand why women choose to cover up and the history of traditional Arabic clothing. If you didn’t know that Muslims pray five times a day, once you come to the U.A.E. you will. Whether you’re in school, shopping, eating or walking on the beach, you will hear the call to prayer. I have been to the Dubai Mall and even there, you can hear it, which was surprising to me at first.
2. If you can survive the extreme heat, you can survive anything
In summer months, it can get up to a daily average of 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). In my hometown, it has never been close to reaching that high. Dress code in Sharjah did not allow me to wear what I considered summer appropriate clothing, so I needed to adjust. Luckily, most places here have air conditioning and it’s always recommended to stay inside as much as possible. During the fall semester, temperatures are perfect and you will be able to enjoy long walks on Jumeirah Beach.
3. You will encounter more than just Emirati culture
Don’t be fooled by the stereotypical image of the Middle East. Arabic culture is deeply rooted here, but with the U.A.E. being an expat nation, there is so much cultural diversity. Egyptian, Saudi Arabian and Indian are just some of the nationalities I have encountered here. Look at it this way, why experience just one culture when the U.A.E. gives you much more?
4. Your negotiation skills will be tested and improved
It is typical in Arabic life to bargain. Here, souks (local markets) are the perfect place to become a pro at negotiating. Want a cashmere scarf or a beautiful black abaya embroidered with gold patterns? Bargain - no exceptions. You will quickly learn that you should never pay full price for anything here because 99 percent of the time you could have gotten it cheaper. For those of you that aren’t accustomed to bargaining, like me, it’s actually pretty fun!
5. You will want to explore places other than Dubai
While it may seem that Dubai is the only cool place to visit here, there’s actually a lot more to see. Sharjah Creek is just one of the beautiful places that isn’t advertised as much as Jumeirah Beach in Dubai. The Sheikh Zayed Grande Mosque and souks in Abu Dhabi are other popular places to visit on a weekend. Also, if you want to venture out of the U.A.E., there are many countries close by like India, Oman and Egypt that you can visit.
Do yourself a favor and come see this beautiful and diverse country. There’s always something to learn from locals and expats!
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