Ryan Duffy - 2015 Program Participant

A beach in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A beach in Dubai in the foreground, with construction for an amusement park on the ocean in the background

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I've always loved traveling, so this was a no-brainer. Studying abroad gives you the potential to have new experiences and opportunities that would not be available if you stayed in your home country. Taking classes and studying alongside people with a diverse set of home countries and cultural perspectives, eating the country's food, and seeing the landmarks and scenery of a foreign country are just some of the many rewarding experiences studying abroad can give you.

Why did you choose The American University in Dubai?

I chose AUD's program for a variety of reasons. First, I've always been fascinated with the city of Dubai. This program allowed me to learn about Dubai, the UAE, and the other countries of the Middle East in great detail, and in an authentic setting. Dubai is one of the most famous cities on the Earth, and a social, economic, and cultural hub of the Middle East. It is rapidly changing and expanding; as host of the 2020 World Expo, it will remind the world of its status as a fascinating, multicultural, and awe-inspiring city. AUD provides their students with many resources, faculty from all over the world, and eye-opening experiences, while in the heart of it all.

What was your favorite part about Dubai?

All around the campus, brand new skyscrapers dot the skyline. Next to the school, a 14 line highway and above-ground metro are always bustling. About half of a mile from the school, a manmade island in the shape of a Palm jets out onto the water. These features are examples of how outlandish, one-of-a-kind, and cosmopolitan Dubai is, and being surrounded by them made for a pretty unique experience.

View of the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

View of the top of the Burj-Khalif, the tallest building in the world, from the 170th floor

What aspects of your program made it unique? 

Studying alongside students from all over the Middle East, learning about governments and cultures of countries that I wouldn't be able to learn in detail about in the States, and seeing sights that don't exist in any other city in the world (such as the the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper, or the Burj al Arab, a luxurious hotel settled on an artificial island in the ocean).

What surprised you most about Dubai?

Though it is halfway across the world, Dubai is very international and globalized, which was pretty surprising. I was aware that it was a very cosmopolitan and extravagant city but I didn't know the extent to which it was populated from people all over the world. I couldn't turn a corner in the city without seeing an American store or restaurant. There were also people from every corner of the globe; whether they were residents, tourists, or businessmen, everybody had a different story. I was also surprised to find out that there is a very vibrant and prevalent nightlife culture.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were helpful. Before I arrived, staff from different departments were emailing me with checklists, guides, and helpful information about my stay. They were also available to answer any questions I had. Up until the day I left, they continued to ensure that all questions I had were answered.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I would have loved to travel while I was there. Though the Middle East isn't exactly the safest destination, there are many places around the Persian Gulf that would be great (and safe) to visit. Unfortunately I wasn't even able to make it to Abu Dhabi, which is only an hour and a half by car from Dubai.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Wake up, work out, eat in the school's cafeteria or a cafe within walking distance of the school, go to classes. Then go into the city, eat somewhere while I was there at one of the many great restaurants, and each time, discover something new. Weekend trips included a desert safari, field trips to historic neighborhoods or museums, or a morning at the beach.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It was easy. Virtually everybody speaks English since it is the second language of the UAE. Every sign or instruction was in both Arabic and English.

View of the Burj al Arab

The view of the Burj al Arab from a boat

What is one of your favorite moments from your time in Dubai? 

One day, the school took all of the study abroad students on a kayak trip through the waters of the Palm Dubai (a manmade island jutting out into the ocean). Though it was quite hot and tiring, the daylong trip was a once in a lifetime experience.

Do you have any packing tips for students headed to Dubai?

Pack lighter clothes because you will most likely be sweating a lot. Pack some good sunglasses (should be polarized if possible), and do not bring a rain jacket or heavy winter coat. Don't worry about stocking up on your favorite things from home because they will most likely have it in Dubai.

What type of accommodation did you have?

I stayed in a two-person dorm that was newer and more spacious than most dorms at home. It also had its own bathroom and each dorm building had a common kitchen, study lounge, and TV room. I enjoyed how comfortable my stay was.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad in Dubai?

The hardest part was the dramatic change in my surroundings. It is an unfamiliar place with a foreign culture and completely different way of life. Even though I'm from Texas, I was absolutely not ready for the heat; after all, Dubai does lay in a desert so it is routinely 110 degrees fahrenheit during the day and 95 at night (during the summer). However, It can be more moderate during the other seasons. Besides that, other weird weather facts are that it only rains once a year and there can be some pretty brutal sandstorms. If you can get past the uncomfortable weather patterns then you should be okay.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in the United Arab Emirates?

Do know that it's expensive and also be aware of the rules. Certain things that we're used to here in the States, such as drinking, going out, or having the freedom to wear what you want, can be limited or forbidden in UAE. It is an Islamic country so they will not tolerate certain behavior or practices that are acceptable elsewhere.

The Burj al Arab at sunset

The sun sets on the Burj al Arab - "the world's only 7 star hotel"

How has your time abroad impacted your life?

AUD opened many doors for me. It sparked an interest in Middle Eastern studies. I learned more about the religions, cultures, and politics of the Middle East in seven weeks than most Americans do in their lives. Socially, I was exposed to more cultures, viewpoints, and perspectives than I could keep track of, which allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the region's diversity and complexity. From my experience at AUD, I gained a desire to work internationally upon graduating.

Would you recommend The American University in Dubai to other students?

I would recommend it. The people at AUD are friendly, helpful, interesting, and you will have a good time.