Top 10 Reasons to Study Abroad in the UAE

by Dr. Linda Angell

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)  is young, dynamic, and exciting - known for its incredible diversity, warm hospitality, political stability, economic vitality, safety, and religious tolerance. Here are ten reasons to give this thriving nation a look when choosing your study abroad location.

Clouds lingering over a cityscape of Dubai create a futuristic scene.
Clouds lingering over a cityscape of Dubai create a futuristic scene. Photo Courtesy of Thomas Galvez on Flickr

1. Experience a Unique Study Abroad Destination

Anyone can go to Europe, the Far East, or “Down Under”, but the UAE is a relatively new destination undergoing constant and extreme transformation. Don’t be one of the crowd – head to the UAE for a whole new kind of adventure!

2. Many Cultures in One Location

Study in the UAE, and you will certainly learn a lot about the Emirati culture. However, Emiratis only make up approximately 20% of the country’s population, with the remainder coming from all over the Arab-Islamic world, and beyond! While most people speak English, walk the streets and you will hear conversations in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Tagalog, English, and any number of other languages. You will come away from this study abroad experience with a wide knowledge and insight into a broad range of world cultures. The UAE is the place to discover the real meaning of the word internationalization.

3. Benefit from Excellent Educational Facilities  

There are a range of study abroad opportunities, from large public universities to smaller private colleges, and everything in between. Many of these will be accredited both by the UAE’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR), and by an accrediting agency in another country. For example, the American University of Sharjah (AUS) is accredited jointly by MOHESR and by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the US. Not only that, but AUS’s individual programs are accredited to the “gold-standard” within the US system (i.e. AACSB, ABET, and NAAB). This means that students can continue on with their major studies in confidence at a high quality university, while experiencing all of the benefits and adventure that study abroad in the UAE has to offer.

4. Explore All Seven Emirates

The UAE contains seven Emirates, each with their own laws, cultures, landscapes, traditions, and Sheikh, which is a respectful term meaning elder or leader. Abu Dhabi - the largest Emirate and capital city - is known for:  a higher proportion of Emirati Nationals, vast oil holdings, and tree-lined avenues. Another claim to fame is the ongoing development of Saadiyat Island which will soon contain a branch of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, a Performing Arts Center, the NYU Abu Dhabi Campus, and a range of other attractions featuring modern and creative architecture. Abu Dhabi also boasts the magnificent Palace Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and green Masdar City.

The second-largest Emirate of Dubai features a modern, glitzy city, the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa), seven star hotels such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Islands, incredible malls, and  fountains. The third-largest Emirate is Sharjah, which is a more traditional Arab city featuring the beautiful University City with park-like grounds and traditional Islamic architecture, as well as a range of museums and heritage areas celebrating the Arab-Islamic culture of the Gulf. Not far outside the cities of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, you will find yourself in the middle of the desert, with vast shifting sand dunes, camels, and the occasional Gaf Tree.

On the Indian Ocean side of the UAE you can explore Fujairah, known for beaches great for snorkeling and deep-sea fishing. Northern Emirates include Ajman, Umm-Al-Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah – all featuring their own unique attractions and cultures. The entire country is surrounded by bits of the Sultanate of Oman, and the ruggedly beautiful Hajar Mountains filled with wadis, natural pools, and hiking trails.

5. Be Surprised!  

Headlines and newscast can easily lead to the impression that the entire Middle East is filled with flames and chaos. Why not come and see the situation for yourself, perhaps be surprised, and lay some stereotypes to rest.

The UAE happens to be a very safe and modern country, with very low levels of violent and property crime. The diversity of the population means that there are definitely residents who have directly experienced some of the troubling events happening around the region, and you will learn a lot during conversations with the many nationalities living and working there. But, you may also be surprised at the extent to which business continues as usual. Immerse yourself, read the paper, talk to residents, attend lectures, and find out more about what’s behind the news reports.

6. Meet Great People  

Arabs are known for their sincere hospitality, strong sense of tradition, and great sense of humor. They welcome people from all over the world, and are anxious to share their culture and values. Expect to spend long hours discussing home and learning about your host’s while feeling like one of the family.

7. Learn About an Interesting Culture

The Bedouin are an Arab ethnic group that lives in the desert. Their long traditions are interesting and include shipbuilding, exploration, pearl diving, ruling families, camel herding , falconry, scientific discovery, Arabic language, shopping, etc. Studying Arab culture means walking amongst ancient iron age ruins and archeological digs but also modern art and cutting edge architecture. The UAE offers a wide range of heritage areas, museums, festivals, galleries, and events to experience.

8. Try Any Activity...ANY

Water sports, parachuting, trekking, dune bashing, belly-dancing, eating, shopping, dancing, bargaining at traditional souks, studying, camel riding, exploring, travelling, observing, learning. The list really never ends. About the only thing you can’t experience in the UAE is boredom.

9. Many Program Options

Study abroad in the UAE as an exchange student (through a university partnership or ISEP), through a third-party provider (API, CIEE, IFSA-Butler), or as a direct-enrollment visiting student.  You can join for a semester, or a year, and perhaps include an internship before returning home.

10. The Perfect Launch Pad to See More  

The Emirates are the central hub of the world. Students studying there can travel easily to and from their host country through one of the many world-class international airports in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or Sharjah – or one of the regional airports. There are so many interesting and exotic locations nearby – India, Kenya, Bahrain, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, and many more. Reach both European and African locations in short plane rides.