By Dr. Linda C. Angell
US News reported recently that the UAE was voted the best country for study abroad. Why should this surprise anyone? Students coming to the UAE are in for a real treat!
This observation is backed up by our experience here at American University of Sharjah (AUS), where we welcome 25 to 50 incoming study abroad students every semester, and these students consistently report that they have had an excellent experience here.
There are so many reasons for this—below are top five reasons that students should consider studying abroad at AUS in the UAE.
- It’s difficult to imagine any other country moving forward with the same pace of change as the UAE.
Even if a student is only spending a few months in country, we can guarantee that they will experience dramatic changes on many fronts—geographically, socially, economically, culturally and most obviously in terms of the built environment. Employers are always indicating that they need people who can deal with a rapid pace of change, and what better place to develop adaptation skills then in a place like the UAE? Every single day the content of the local newspapers reflects the incredible challenges and ingenuity with which Emiratis balance, on the one hand, preserving their heritage, culture, values, language and general way of life in the face of so much diversity, while on the other hand embracing the future and all of the rapid transformation that comes with it. Sociologically speaking, this is a fascinating place to observe these struggles and triumphs taking place on a daily basis.
- The UAE has the kind of multicultural diversity living in peaceful coexistence that other countries can only dream of.
The population of students at AUS mirrors the diversity of the UAE more generally—about 17 percent of our 6,000 students are Emirati nationals, while the rest of our students represent over 100 different nationalities from across the Arab/Islamic world and beyond. Students who spend a semester or two here will of course be exposed to the Emirati culture, but where else in the world can you experience the full cross-section of the Middle East, the Gulf Arab World, the Islamic World and beyond? While all of our programs at AUS are delivered in English, when strolling around our campus and passing by small groups of students you will be just as likely to hear conversations in Urdu, Farsi, Hindi and a variety of other languages as you will be to hear Arabic. This place truly reflects the concept of “united nations.”
- The UAE really is the center of the world.
We are located geographically right in the very center of the world map, and our many airports offer direct and reasonably priced flights to pretty much every major city around the globe. This makes the UAE an excellent base for international exploration. In addition, the UAE is an international center for trade and a global hub for so many industries, including logistics, banking, construction, insurance, retail, tourism and more. AUS is ideally situated at the very center and heart of the country. If you go 20 minutes in one direction out of the main university gate, you end up in glitzy, cosmopolitan Dubai. Drive 20 minutes in a slightly different direction and you will reach to the Heart of Sharjah area, where all of the development is focused on becoming a model for the traditional Arab city, the cultural capital of the Arab (UNESCO, 1998) and Islamic (ISESCO, 2014) world, Arab Tourism Capital (Arab Tourism Organization, 2015), and recently listed in the top 100 QS Best Student Cities (2016, 2017). Meanwhile, 20 minutes out of AUS’s back gate will bring you into the landscape of the open desert, with the Al Hajjar mountain range visible in the distance, and a variety of iron-age archaeological sites available at Mleiha and other areas across the emirate. We are not kidding when we say that the AUS campus is ideally located within the heart of the Emirates at the very center of the globe.
- Students here enjoy a high quality of life.
Despite the challenging international reputation of the Middle East region, study abroad students in the UAE experience a high quality of life in a very safe environment. The UAE offers a very stable government with a high level of tolerance and security, as well as a range of cuisine, shopping and entertainment options to appeal to all cultures, interests and budgets. You don’t have to be wealthy to enjoy the many attractions available within the UAE! If you have limited resources and are trying to live on a shoe-string budget, you will find there is plenty for you to do. For example, you can have a delicious and filling meal for 20 AED (approx. US$ 5.50) or take an abra across the Dubai Creek to explore the various spice, textile and gold souks for 1 AED (approx. 20 cents of US$). Other budget-friendly options include watching a free Sunday night movie at Wafi City, enjoying a fire in the desert under the stars with your friends, hiking the wadis, visiting world-class exhibitions at the Sharjah Art Foundation, and seeing the aquarium and fountains at the Dubai Mall. If you are fortunate enough to come with ample resources, then the sky is absolutely your limit—and we mean that literally as many students have enjoyed skydiving over the Palm Jumeirah, or hot air ballooning over the Empty Quarter.
- You’ll have a warm welcome at AUS.
The Office of International Exchange Programs (IXO) at AUS will become your home away from home while you are here studying in the UAE. Students can expect to be picked up at the airport and delivered to their dorms. The nine-day orientation aims to build the incoming study abroad cohort as a team, introduce arriving students to AUS students and locals, and includes outings to Sharjah and Dubai, and to Immigration to complete visa applications. Numerous events and outings occur throughout the semester, including trips to Musandam in Oman (a day out on a wooden dhow swimming and exploring the fjords), camel-racing, bull-fighting in Fujairah, group dinners and more. IXO includes a comfort station where good Arabian coffee is always brewing, birthdays are celebrated with donuts, and a lounge that provides space to relax, study and get to know each other. More generally, the IXO staff provides 24/7 emergency assistance and does everything possible to make your time in the UAE memorable.
The UAE is a fascinating, exciting and adventurous place to study abroad, and American University of Sharjah is the obvious choice to experience your adventure of a lifetime! Visit our website for information on how to apply.
Dr. Linda C. Angell is the Director of International Exchange Programs at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah.