As I sit in the international terminal, sipping my Starbucks and routinely checking my backpack to ensure my passport is still in the place I left it, I can't help but think how crazy this all is. Months ago, when I began planning this trip, it just seemed so futuristic and out-of-reach. Now I am here, about to board a 14 hour and 45 minute flight to a country I have never been to, by myself.
Let me preface this with the fact that I have always wanted to study abroad. Something about being submerged in a new culture while studying in a different country intrigued me. During the winter break of my sophomore year at Alabama, I really started to consider studying abroad. The problem was that I didn't want to miss out on a semester on campus and next summer I wanted to get serious with an internship. My best option was this summer going into my junior year. The challenge lied in the fact that I was definitely behind in this decision and had one month to decide where I wanted to go, apply, and begin planning the actual trip. I immediately got to work talking to my advisor when I was back on campus for the fall. You may be wondering "Why Dubai?" Good question, my advisor was asking the same thing. It was the most peculiar of my three location options, but my thoughts were that if I am going to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to take classes in a whole different country, I might as well do something completely out of the norm. In fact, my advisor told me I would be the first student she has taken to the UAE and something about that excited me more. So I decided on Dubai and never looked back. Through determination and dedication, I submitted everything before the deadlines and was one step closer to my dream of studying abroad.
Truthfully, packing was difficult. The UAE expects attire and dress to be respectful, with shoulders covered and nothing above the knee. I think every American college girl can agree this leaves a limited amount of clothes in our current closets that pass their dress code. This meant lots of shopping (yay!). But besides the clothes, thinking ahead to pack what you would need to live on your own in a dorm for six weeks in another country was difficult. It made me think of the little things we take advantage of like our wired appliances. In order to plug anything in abroad, you need the proper plug adapter for the country and a converter to alter the voltage and watts of the appliances. The trick to packing this all too is that you need to make it as compact as possible. I made it work though, with two large suitcases, a backpack, and hope that I didn't forget anything I can't buy there.
I also had a zoom seminar two weeks before my departure with my affiliate program to further prepare me to go to the UAE. They explained the culture there, greetings and farewells in Arabic, and the fun excursions I would partake in while there. This zoom was also where I found out I was not only the only Alabama student going, but I was the only American. Out of all of the universities in the United States, I was the only American student enrolled in the American University of Sharjah this summer. It took a second for me to process this information but again, this only made me more excited. I would be meeting solely international or local students in my classes, which is so cool!
And now I'm here, boarding a flight to Dubai, looking forward to what is to come this summer.