MSU students show their Spartan pride in Dubai, UAE.
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MSU students study abroad in Dubai, UAE
by Tessa Dunseath, Executive Director of MSU Dubai
For students fortunate enough to take part in a study abroad program, life may never be quite the same again! Studying abroad, even for a short period of two weeks, provides students with the unique experience of connecting with new people, languages and cultures while developing their own personal and professional skills. Engaging with diverse cultures through interaction, observation and reflection promotes self-confidence, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of cultural issues.
During the holiday period of December 2016 and January 2017, fourteen Michigan State University students and their accompanying professors, Camelia Suleiman from Arabic Studies and Russell Lucas, Director of Global Studies at the College of Arts and Letters, enjoyed the hospitality of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE consists of seven Emirates, and although the students were based in the Emirate of Dubai, they were also given the opportunity to visit the Emirates of Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman and the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. This is one of the best times of the year to visit the Middle East. The winter weather in the Gulf is very pleasant in December and January, with temperatures ranging through the mid- to late twenty degrees centigrade, unlike the summer months of July and August when temperatures can reach into the high forties.
The Emirate of Dubai offers a wealth of experience for both the undergraduate and graduate student wishing to learn more about subjects such as: Arabic culture and its people; crucial world health issues; business and finance; law; tourism and logistics.
Dubai is known world-wide for its iconic attractions such as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which stands next to the biggest mall in the world. The Burj Al Arab, which was designed to resemble a ship in full sail is described as the only seven-star hotel – yes, that's right, in the world!
However, in addition to seeing some of the popular sites, the students were given a more down-to-earth view of life in the Middle East. Tutorials and seminars were facilitated by experts on topics, which included: the history of the region; contrasting new and old Dubai; the roots of the Muslim faith and what it means to be a Muslim in the twenty-first century; the great writers in Arabic literature; and developments and innovations of the past and present. Through visits to cultural centers and museums, reference to relevant texts, discussion and debate, the students were given a very real insight into life in the Gulf States.
It should not be forgotten that an important part of gaining an education and preparing for life-long learning is to have some fun. The students were particularly happy with 'dune bashing' (for the uninitiated that is being driven in a large car up and down even larger sand dunes at speed – preferably not after lunch! Known locally as the roller-coaster in the sand). For those who like heights, an elevator to the top of the Burj Khalifa was not to be missed. Students also observed traditional dancing and sampled local food and encountered camels and falcons in their natural habitat. Some enjoyed the experience of trying temporary tattoos in the form of traditional Henna favored by Arabian brides. On the final evening a farewell dinner was arranged in the Gulf on a dhow, which is a traditional Arabian sailing vessel.
Following the study abroad experience students reported that:
"It was great! By far the best study abroad I have ever encountered. Being a part of the different environment and culture really broadened my intellectual on the world. I am honored to have been a part of such an experience. I hope the future students take in the experience as much as I did!" –A P.
"This trip opened my eyes to a world I didn't believe existed. I was so impressed with the advancements of Dubai and the amount of people it attracts.
The level of information I learned in just two short weeks is remarkable in itself and I am so grateful I was able to go through with this experience. Everything was hands on and that is what made me enjoy it the most. It was a very authentic program and I give thanks to everyone involved from the professors and programmers to the tour guides and guest speakers. You've all made this experience worthwhile and worth every penny!" –A.H.
"One day I'm going to establish a study abroad program in Detroit so more of us can see what the world has to offer."