Amalie Ingefred Davidsen - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad? 

Since the very beginning of my studies, I was sure of the fact that I wanted to spend a semester abroad. On one side because I was sure that it would boost my resume and thereby my chances to get a job after my time at the university, but on the other side, I really just wanted to experience a different culture and a different way of studying. I hoped that I would be very inspired by all the different people and different nationalities I would meet abroad – and I was so right. 

International students at dinner in Lebanon
My wonderful roomies threw me a birthday dinner. During our time at AUB, my roomies and I took turns cooking our favorite meals or meals from our home countries. Those dinners were so lovely, and so was living with these seven people.

Why did you choose the American University of Beirut?

Since I am majoring in Religion, specializing in Islam and the Middle East, I found it out of the question to go anywhere other than the Middle East. I researched a lot on different universities all over the region, and found that AUB seemed to fit my needs perfectly. I fell completely in love with the way AUB looked in its photos, the way their student environment was described, and the courses available. I had heard so many nice things about Beirut, so I knew that I would love the university and the city from the moment of my arrival.

What was your favorite part about Beirut?

The cultural life in Beirut completely amazed me. I arrived with the expectation that people might not go out as much as we do where I come from, but I was proven wrong! There is always something to do in Beirut, always people in the streets, always people at cafes having coffee, shisha or food. There are so many cultural events and stuff to do, so you are never bored in this city. I went to several movie-events in the Metropolis Cinema, which was always a great way to meet both local as well as international people. In addition to this, I learned a lot about Lebanese and Middle Eastern history and culture, since the movies was often about these topics – it was a wonderful way to learn more about the region. 

What made your experience abroad unique?

The simple fact that I went to Lebanon was quite unique. Most people at my home university go to the United States, Australia or somewhere in Europe. I have a feeling that it is like this many places in the world. To make the choice to go to the Middle East is perhaps a bit different, and some people may unfortunately be a bit scared to go there. This means there weren’t as many short-term international students in Lebanon as there would be in the U.S., Australia, and Europe. However, because of this we really bonded with each other and the mentors at AUB. I have met some very unique people who were all so committed to learning about Lebanese and Middle Eastern culture, and I have made friends for life. 

How did local staff support you throughout your program? 

The staff was overall very supportive during my program. I had a small panic-attack when I found out that two of the courses I requested were not available that semester, but the staff at AUB sat down with me and gave me great counseling in which courses I could take instead--courses that would give me the same skills as the one I had first requested. 

Baalbek ruins in Lebanon
On one of our last weekends my friends and I took a trip to see the ruins in Baalbek. Even though we got stuck in traffic for hours and hours on the way home, the fact that we had our feet in snow, near the most incredible ruins all day, was such a perfect ending to our stay.

What did you learn about yourself studying abroad?

I learned a lot about letting go of prejudice. I have never seen myself as a person with many prejudices, but still… when arriving into a new country, a new culture with new people from all over the world, I had to let go of everything I thought I knew about cultures, habits and everything else. If I haven’t done this, I believe I would have ended up blocking myself from many wonderful and surprising experiences and end up only talking to people who might not be that different from my friends back home. Because I dropped my expectations, I was able to hear so many different perspectives on everything and also got to be part of experiences I never would have imagined.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I was so lucky that to live with six other international students and one Lebanese student. In our free time we made sure to experience all of Lebanon and Beirut together. During the weekdays we went out with other students both at AUB and the Lebanese American University. We went to dinners, cultural events (art openings, movies and so on). On the weekends we went out a lot in Beirut as well, but also made sure to see the rest of Lebanon. On guided tours, and also on our own. We had some fun adventures going to the bus station and taking a minivan to some place in the countryside, just to see what the day brought. 

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it? 

I was very lucky and lived in a large apartment in Hamra, close to the university. Although the apartment could have been in better shape, I had the best time living there. I lived with 7 other people, and therefore our place often became the meeting point for many of the international and local students. We have had so many great dinners and gatherings at the balcony during our time in Lebanon. The fact that so many different people visited our apartment during our stay, meant that I constantly learned new things and a sense of community was created between all of us. 

How did your time abroad impact the way you view and interact with the world?

I think my time abroad has made me more courageous. By letting myself go outside of my comfort zone, I have learned how much of a difference it can make to go places you never would have imagined going and doing things, you normally would not do. Just from a simple thing like taking a taxi somewhere, I learned a lot.

I was super nervous the first couple of times I had to go somewhere by myself, as I did not know the language or the city. However, as I learned that the Lebanese people are very helpful and patient, I got the courage to do more and more things on my own, and go further out of my comfort zone. I have had some very special encounters with local people in Lebanon, and it has made me want to meet the locals everywhere else I go as well. I believe that by staying out of the classic “tourist traps”, you will learn a lot more about different countries and cultures and the world will suddenly seem a lot less frightening. 

Would you recommend AUB to others? Why?

Of course, I would! I loved my time at AUB and in Beirut, and wish for everyone to have such a great experience. The level of the courses is very good, and you really get to learn a lot. I know that the people who took the Arabic courses were very impressed and gained a lot of skills in Arabic in only one semester. The social life at AUB is amazing, and there is always something to do, and a club to join – no matter what your interests are.