Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The End

My stay here abroad is starting to wrap up.  We had our final IXO farewell diner.  We watched the IXO semester in review video with pictures of everyone.  Jesus did a magnificent job putting the video together.  I received my canceled visa today.  I ran into other exchange students running around trying to get their housing deposits back.  One was leaving this evening, so it pushing things fairly close to the last minute.  Last Thursday was the last official day of classes, but many teachers canceled classes as final exams started that Friday.  My first exam wasn't until Saturday, so I searched for the energy and initiative to study hard for my exams.  Tomorrow morning will be my last in the UAE.

So this is probably the best time to recap the semester and what I learned.

This semester I went off campus a lot more than I would at home.  At Wellesley there always seems to be something going on oncampus, so that there's no need to go off campus every weekend.  Here there really isn't a whole lot going on campus and in my opinion not much of a residential life, in contrast again to Wellesley.  Some might claim that East side of the Wellesley campus is dead, but that really isn't true and at least I know the people on my hall fairly well, versus here it's like everyone has their doors closed or isn't in the dorm.  Getting off campus lead to the good survivor tool of learning and becoming familiar with the school bus schedule and utilizing taxis.  I would recommend that if you are over 21 and come here, consider renting a car.  With gas close to a quarter a liter, you'll definitely save on transportation fare.

Travel.  I got to travel and do a fair amount.  I did want to make it to the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi, but never made it there.  I got to see my fill of Sharjah, Dubai, and even made the day trip to Al Ain.  As for outside the country traveling, there are lots of opportunities.  Other exchange students had the luxury of traveling to India, Nepal, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and other countries.  There were some good deals, but $200 flights start to add up, especially when you also include housing and food and transportation while on your adventures.  So if you want to take advantage of the traveling opportunities, budget it and take the adventure.

My Recommendations.  Jumaira Beach was fantastic.  The water was just the right temperature when we first came in September.  It also was an amazingly clean beach and the sand was the fine soft sand.  I liked feeding the giraffes as the zoo.  I'd never been so close to one. Desert safari is a must.  I think just about all the exchange students went on a safari during our stay here.

Academics.  Well, the university is based off of an American system, but I found it very different from Wellesley academically.  I still had an all girls Arabic class, which amused me.  I'll never get to practice using the masculine "you" form at this rate.  Joking aside, I found that here there seems to be a lot more individual study rather than group study.  Classes are rigorous, but two of them it was more can I memorize these facts rather than actual learning.  There is a very strict policy in place to prevent cheating which at times because rather annoying.  For example on an online exam we cannot go back on questions.  Once you've answered the question you are done.

It was also interesting to think about the fact that English is a second language for some people here.  So one of my classes tried to level the playing field for the class by giving multiple choice questions on midterms and now essay/short answer on the final.  Writing 101 is a pre-req for all the classes I took, but one professor explained to me that the class (Arabic/Islamic Culture and Civilization) used to test with essay questions but found this gave an unfair advantage to native speakers of English.  Yet in some of my other classes, such as History-America and the Middle East, we were expected to write well and have a good handle on the English language.  Our teacher was a hard grader on our response and research papers.

From talking with other students, exchange and non-, I think the academic programs here are very good for business, engineering, and architecture.  After being here a semester, I think the college of arts and sciences is still growing, but small.  The theater minor was just opened a few years ago and a biology major is still somewhat new(from what I've been told??)  The school has only been open for 15 years, so in a few years when it has aged, the academic program here for the arts and sciences will be stronger.

It's been a wonderful time here and here is where I sign off.  My semester abroad has come to an end and I return to Wellesley college for the spring semester.  Ma'salama ya al-emiraat al-mutahida al-arabiya.


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