Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Next Great Adventure

Train into Dubai!
I've been in Dubai for six days now, but it certainly feels like much much longer with all the activities and adventures I've already gotten myself into.  From the less than glamorous travel to the absolute excess that is Dubai, it has been an insane week moving to the Arabian peninsula.  But before I get into all that, here's a little background on what I'm doing here.  

The front entrance to my school.  Beautiful campus!
I applied for the Clinton Scholars program which awards ten American students the chance to study at American University in Dubai (AUD) for a semester free of 

charge.  I originally received the scholarship for the 5-week summer term but instead opted to go to Korea with CLS.  Fortunately, the Clinton Scholarship committee pushed my application back to the fall semester and offered me a place here from August through December.  What started as a 5-week trip to the desert became a four-month stint in one of the world's most incredible cities.  

This is a view from the front gate to my dorm.
We're right in the middle of the city.
After I got back from Korea last month, I spent two weeks in Alabama visiting family and friends and trying to get 

everything squared away for this next great adventure.  It was such a short visit, and I didn't get near enough time to see everybody or do everything that I wanted to do.  But time waits for no one, so on August 29th, I pulled up to Huntsville International and boarded a plane for the unknown.  The fourteen-hour flight was one of the worst rides I'd ever taken.  There was so much turbulence that a guy in front of me threw up as the lady next to him received oxygen and was dragged to the galley where she passed out.  I have never wanted to get out of a place quite that badly.  When I got off the plane and headed past the Muslim prayer rooms to the restroom, I looked into the bathrooms and saw squat toilets and a hose to clean yourself.  Welcome to the Middle East.  

Shopping mall - Middle Eastern style!
I got past immigration without hassle and found a taxi to take me to AUD.  After signing into the dorms and getting my key, I met the guys across the hall - my RA (Marc) who is French and another American here for the semester (Lloyd).  I unpacked a bit before heading to a late 9PM dinner with Lloyd at a restaurant down the street and couldn't believe how smoky the place was.  There were at least twenty tables of people smoking hookah in the restaurant.  Apparently everyone in the Middle East smokes; I'm hoping that four months of second hand smoking won't be enough to negate not smoking for the past 19 years.  Since I had come with only two suitcases and two carry-ons, I had no blankets or pillows and spent the night on an old stained dorm room mattress with a jacket for warmth.  It was a sad day.

Chillin' at the Dubai Marina.
The next morning, Lloyd and I, along with a couple other study abroad students, took the metro to the mall where we entered the Dubai version of Wal Mart and stocked up on all the dorm room essentials.  The rush hour commuters packed like sardines on the train were not happy when we entered with all of our bags, blankets, and pillows in tow.  That evening, I went for a short run around the track before heading back to the dorm dripping in sweat.  On my way in, a guy stopped me and said, "Are you Jacob the study abroad student?"  I told him I was to which he replied, "cool, we're going to dinner fifteen minutes."  It turns out that he is one of the study abroad mentors who the university assigns to find us and make sure we have a good time in Dubai.  I met up with the group of study abroad students and mentors for a fun Friday night at the Dubai Marina where we learned all the do's and don't's of Dubai.  The rest of the weekend went about the same way, with orientation sessions, dinners and outings to the mall with the study abroad group, and meeting a ton of really cool people.  Despite a couple nuisances such as getting lost on the metro in search of a non-profit where I'm supposed to volunteer, dripping with sweat in the 105 degree weather between classes, or, you know, actually having to go to class, I can tell it's going to be an amazing semester in Arabia!


  1. So pumped this is back! First, props to you for being 1 of the 10 students in ALL of America to receive a full scholarship to study in Dubai-seriously, that rocks! Second, your flight was 14 hours long??? ew. Your backside had to have been numb! When my family went to Germany, I wanted to shoot myself after 12 hours of sitting! Fortunately, I had pleasant neighboring passengers AND Harry Potter 7 to make the trip somewhat bearable ;). Your RA is French?? soo cool! I have a Japanese exchange student on my floor, and he is pretty much the greatest thing ever. Our conversations usually consist of hi-how-are-you's, head-nods, and giggles: I probably should learn some Japanese ;).
    It seems like you are already having a fabulous time, and I hope you continue to enjoy your time in Dubai! I will most definitely be stalking this blog to read about all the hysterical situations you find yourself in and whatnot, so keep the posts coming! I wish you the BEST of luck this semester and pray that you stay safe! (this is probably the most scatterbrained post.ever.)
    p.s. how is it possible that you have already made 17 friends??! Teach me your social ways!

    1. Hey Alex!! Glad you're enjoying the blog, and thanks for reading! It was definitely a ridiculously long flight - I couldn't believe it was only half way over at hour 7. Apparently the flight home is a couple hours longer because of the wind or something. I had plenty of "How I Met Your Mother", so it wasn't too bad :) Are you in Rast or Blount this semester? If you're in Rast, I think that the Japanese guy is roomming with one of my friends, unless there are just numerous Japanese people at UAB which is definitely a possibility haha... Good luck this semester at UAB -- based off your recent Facebook pictures it looks like you're having a good time!

    2. I'm an RA in Rast this year. His name is Masahiro?? ha he is definitely my fave. :)

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