New Adventures in the East: Dubai

The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, only a three minute drive from campus.

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, only a three minute drive from campus.

Recently, UFV made a brand new partnership, an interesting and unique one with the Canadian University of Dubai (CUD). This past semester, from September until December 2015, Jeevan Nijjar was the first UFV student to travel to Dubai. Jeevan decided to share his story.


I had originally planned to attend the American College of Dubai, but was told that UFV was in the process of signing a partnership with CUD. CUD had a lot more courses to offer, and since I was entering my fourth year, there were only a handful of courses left in my degree. Fortunately, everything worked out and I got into 4 business courses and UAE society, which served as an elective.

The university had an architect department (which seemed cool since the city is filled with state of the art buildings), an interior design department, business department, and quite a few more. They offered graduate programs as well. While there, I took Intro to Advertising, Strategic Management, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Society, Services Marketing, and Consumer Behaviour.

I went on a UAE Society field trip to a cultural understanding center, which focused on the history, culture, and religion of the UAE.

I went on a UAE Society field trip to a cultural understanding center, which focused on the history, culture, and religion of the UAE.

Right away, I noticed how diverse the students and staff were. When we introduced ourselves in our classes, we would usually have to say our name, our major, and the country that we were from, as almost everyone was from outside the country. Besides a couple people from Montreal, I was the only Canadian in my classes. I also didn’t meet a single American at the university.

Everyone was extremely laid back, and it took me a little while to get used to. If a class started at 3:00pm, the students and even the professor didn’t actually arrive until 3:25pm. If I made a meeting with someone at the international office, the time was never set in stone, more along the lines of “I’ll see you tomorrow around noon.” Everyone I encountered at the university was really hospitable. The Student Success Officer, someone who plays the role of the Study Abroad Advisor, showed me around the campus. The CUD campus was about ¬†half the size of UFV. The officer introduced me to some of my professors I had that semester. It was nice having someone to show me around somewhere that was completely new and different.

I lived in the housing that was provided by CUD. It was about 25-30 minutes away from the school campus, and there was a shuttle that went back and forth by the hour. The living space was much bigger than I expected, with two large rooms and a kitchen. I had three roommates: one from Syria and two from Kazakhstan. The Syrian and one of the Kazakhs were improving their English at CUD, so communicating was a little tricky sometimes.

This mosque was right outside of my bedroom window, very close to our residence.

This mosque was right outside of my bedroom window, very close to our residence.

Living arrangements there were quite different than here. The building we lived in had the first two floors designated for boys only, while the upper two floors were for girls. There was also one elevator designated for boys and another for girls. There was also a security guard on every floor, as boys weren’t allowed on the girls floor and vice versa.

The building we lived in was located in an area called Discovery Gardens. It had about 100 other buildings that looked quite similar. The building I lived in was located right next to a mosque. There was a mosque on practically every block. Being right beside one, the five daily calls to prayer could be heard throughout the building. The first call was around 4:00am, with the last call around 8:00pm.

Getting around in Dubai was quite easy. Taxis are pretty cheap, so I used them most of the time. Since the school was in downtown Dubai, I would sometimes take the shuttle to school and then a taxi from there. There was also a metro that went through Dubai, but I rarely used it because taxis were often a lot faster.

They call Dubai the “belly button of the world.” This is because it is located on the center of the globe. I had hoped to travel to a nearby country – planning to go to Egypt in November. However, on October 31, there was an act of terrorism on a plane departing Egypt to Russia. At the time, many countries, including UAE, temporarily stopped all of the flights to Egypt. It was unfortunate, and even though I was unable to travel outside the country, I had an amazing experience studying abroad.

This is a picture of Pier 7, taken from the food court in the mall at Dubai Marina. It was only a 5 minute drive from my residence.

This is a picture of Pier 7, taken from the food court in the mall at Dubai Marina. It was only a 5 minute drive from my residence.

Some random things I learned and noticed while studying abroad in Dubai:

  • I arrived in late August and the weather was in the mid-40s (degrees Celsius). I was in Mexico two days prior, so I thought I would be conditioned for the heat. However, when I walked out of the airport, I couldn’t believe how hot and humid it really was! Everyone suggested to not walk around outside for over five minutes at a time during the day, at least for the first month – it was just that hot!
  • Everyone there speaks English!
  • During my four month trip, it only rained once… quite a difference from Vancouver!
  • The buildings in Dubai look incredibly cool. Their architecture is amazing.
  • It wasn’t unusual for some students to arrive to school in Roll’s Royce’s, Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, etc. The market for luxury brands is huge! The whole state seemed to revolve around malls, as their tourism is shopping-based.

    View of Pier 7 at the Dubai Marina at night.

    View of Pier 7 at the Dubai Marina at night.

  • Canada seems to have an awesome reputation. Whenever I told someone that I was from Canada, they got really excited and asked a lot of questions. A lot of students planned on going west after they graduated from university.

Some helpful tips that I learned:

  • Preparation helps a ton. I did a bunch of research on Dubai before I went – this way, I had a feeling of what I was in for. For example, I Google’d, “What I should know before going to Dubai.” I learned about their strict rules and regulations, and also I Google-mapped the city – I was able to make note of where things were and the travel times between them. I checked how far my residence was the nearest gym and the airport. By the time I arrived, I already felt like I kind of knew where things were.
  • Make a list of things you want to do there. I was expecting time to go by fast (which it does), so I made a list of the sites I wanted to make sure to see while living there.

    The world's fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi!

    The world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi!

A view from the observation room in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building.

A view from the observation room in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building.

Study abroad is an amazing opportunity, and I really enjoyed my time in Dubai!

 

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