There has never been a better time to study abroad in the Middle East. From enjoying its ancient and fascinating culture, to sampling some of the finest cuisine in the world, spending a semester or a year in the Middle East will be an experience that you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.
From a professional perspective, studying in the Middle East will help you to advance your understanding of the dynamic regions that encompass the Arab world. Because you’ll have an intimate knowledge of a little-understood region (at least in the West), you will make yourself a prime candidate for employment at any firm with a global outlook.
However, in order to successfully make the international transition, it is critically important for you to prepare yourself for what may be a wholly different set of customs, ideologies and values. Here are a few tips that will help your Middle East study abroad a positive and fruitful experience.
1. Familiarize yourself with the culture and laws
If you’re interested in studying in the Middle East, you are surely aware of at least some of the social, political and cultural differences between many of the regions of the Arab world and the West. Unfortunately, not all international students are truly able to make the fundamental lifestyle adjustments once they arrive, and as a result, some find themselves in problematic situations.
For example, in the United Arab Emirates, if you are demonstrably under the influence of alcohol in public or on public transportation, you might be imprisoned. You must also acquire a permit to purchase or carry alcohol (except in Sharjah, where all alcohol is illegal). Some prescription medications in the U.S. are considered controlled substances. You may not dance in public, unless it is at a specifically licensed dance club. Public displays of affection are forbidden. If you are caught taking someone’s photograph without their permission, or take a photo of a restricted area, you may be arrested.
Being an American doesn’t absolve you from the same regulations, laws and norms that are observed by the native population. However, if you do your homework and make yourself aware of the expected behaviors, you’ll avoid any unpleasant mishaps.
2. Take advantage of organized campus activities and clubs
Although every school has a new student orientation program, it can still be difficult to become acquainted with a brand-new region, particularly if you aren’t fluent in the local languages. By participating in campus activities, you can join with other students who are also making a cultural transition, and meet local students who can help to introduce you to your new home.
Students who enroll in the American University of Sharjah in the U.A.E. have the opportunity to join any of 70 student clubs and organizations, which are not only dedicated to introducing students to different activities, cultures and traditions, but also facilitating entry into diverse careers. From an association for accounting and finance majors, to an organization dedicated to learning how to become a DJ, there is a student organization designed to explore every interest, and include every kind of student.
3. Keep an open mind
It can be intimidating to travel alone to a country whose customs and languages are new to you, but if you practice a bit of cultural sensitivity and trust that the people are just as welcoming, friendly and helpful as you are, your Middle East study abroad semester will be a wonderful experience!
If you’re interested in a Middle East study abroad for a semester or full year, please visit our program finder to find the best program for your academic goals.
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