Study Abroad in Dubai
By Levi Lall, graduate assistant and MBA student at SEU
I’ve always been fascinated with cultures around the world.
Growing up in India as a missionary kid, I was exposed to various worldviews, people, religions, and traditions at a young age. Since then, my elasticity for absorbing various cultures – almost as if through osmosis – has grown, and there aren’t many cultures that seem foreign to me.
It’s an Islamic society with a monarch, entirely unique system of government; an exotic ultra-modern city surrounded by sand dunes and the Indian ocean. I’ve always wanted to see if I would like it … if I would fit in. When I realized this adventure could be a component of my educational experience, I jumped at the opportunity.
I spent 12 days in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through the World Strides partnership with Southeastern University. Seven Emirates – a.k.a. city-states – came together in 1971 to form the nation of the UAE. Dubai, one of the original emirates, was initially a fishing village that accrued wealth after the discovery of oil. It has matured into a booming city known for its technology, free enterprise, tourism, and world-class attractions. While we spent some of our mornings and afternoons in classrooms listening to lecturers from local university professors, we also visited businesses, historical landmarks, banks, hotels, tourism attractions, government authorities, malls and restaurants. The insights gained from seeing these places first-hand was the real value of this trip. The memories will last me a lifetime.
I’m currently halfway through my MBA and plan on subsequently attending law school. When I found out that this study abroad program offered an introductory-level educational experience that explored Dubai’s business and legal climate, I was all-in. It was the perfect mix. And on top of that, this trip provided exposure to a business and legal system that combined aspects of Western values with Islamic tradition, resulting in something vastly different than what I’m used to seeing. Stepping outside of my norms and into something fresh, new and exciting – I knew it would reveal aspects of my own field of study through a different lens.
The biggest thing that happened as a result of this trip was relationships. The other students accompanying me were from Portugal, Germany, China and Austria. Hearing their ideas on how Dubai differed from their local experiences not only accentuated my observations, but gave me insights into how my background was different than theirs.
In particular, I met a girl from Homs, Syria. Her family had been displaced, and she was working in Dubai. We had the chance to hang out a few times, and I loved hearing about her dreams, faith and life story. She hadn’t seen her grandparents in eight years because Syria was too dangerous to return to. In fact, her hometown was bombed earlier this year. I asked her about her thoughts on this, to which she responded, “pray for our people.”
When you can step out of your culture and into the reality of some else’s, your world becomes bigger. You may read about the destruction of war, the malice of terror, and the predicament of countries outside of your own. But until you step foot on their soil and hear their stories, you won’t fully appreciate their reality. When you lift your head up from your textbook, and step outside, immersing yourself in a different culture, you’ll see the world in an entirely new way. That’s why I encourage you to go on a study abroad trip. I promise you’ll return home more attuned to the reality of what is happening in our world and more equipped to leverage your education for the betterment of those at home — and others abroad.