Places

It’s all fun and games until you’re surprised with mayonnaise.

Life in the emirates is really cool. Sometimes it’s easy to forget things like that I’m exploring a concrete jungle erected out of the middle of the desert just 44 years ago or that I’ve wandered the earth’s biggest mall and climbed its tallest building all in one day, or that the main reason I came here was to go to school.

But honestly, the UAE is amazing. The architecture, the homes, the Mosques, everything is just crazy. When we took the bus around Sharjah and Dubai during orientation week, my eyes were always glued out the window. I once caught myself dozing off and suddenly medium-sized houses locked together in squared neighborhoods seemed to morph into 40 story glass skyscrapers like I was watching a poorly produced school project. It seems like every 10 minutes you’re in a different place. For instance, when you picture the Middle East, what do you see? This?

Alex - 2a

Well, you’re right. But the super cool thing is, 10 minutes down the road is this…

Alex - 2b

It’s really cool to see the differences in just a 25 minute drive from campus to Dubai Mall. For instance, one trip into Dubai took us past a camel racing training ground, giant mosques that pierce the otherwise barren desert landscape, and one of the world’s busiest airports, and that was all in the span of 10 minutes.

Blurry desert Mosque

Blurry desert Mosque

I know Lauren, who studies Interior Design/Architecture at the most prestigious school for such a program in the Midwest, (coughbraggingcough) would have a field day here. I don’t think I could ever get her to leave, to be honest. Even if she got bored looking at the intricate stonemasonry or glasswork on almost every building here, Dubai Mall has an entire section that seems like it’s a half-mile long dedicated to home furnishing. When we go to The Plaza in Kansas City, she likes to spend, at the very least, half an hour in Restoration Hardware. If you’re not familiar, it’s a home furnishing store that neither of us can afford anything at. (other than plates depicting small animals wearing suits and other formal attire)

Anyway, before I get too far off track…

My friend Yusef has been incredibly welcoming and hospitable to me. He invited me to play football with him and all his friends at some Spanish club’s youth academy in Ajman, which was cool. It was fun because everyone had a fairly competitive skill ranging from decent to above-average, and then there was me. I was so bad that they moved me from right wing to left back. Context clues told me that it was similar to moving from 3rd base to right field(s/o all my right fielders). It’s cool though, because out of the friends I played with back home, I’m one of the two best there, and that’s good enough for me.

Yusef has invited me into his home a few times, one of those to eat dinner with his family. Homes in the Arab world are cool, and I like the way they work. Basically you have a big entertainment/sitting room in the front that guests are pretty much restricted to. I know my mom would love that set up because she always complains about the kitchen not being clean (enough) for visitors even though the only person that comes to my house is Lauren. The first time I went to Yusef’s house, he brought me more food than I knew what to do with. Three different kinds of dates, honeydew melon, watermelon, assorted nuts, apples, oranges, figs, grapes, and Arabic tea and coffee.

Alex - 2d

This room is quite big, and it’s full of chairs and couches. I’ll try to get a better picture next time I’m in there (Inshallah) but the above picture kind of gives you an idea of the place. Despite being Yusef’s personal friend, I haven’t yet been invited into the “actual” house, which is kind of weird at first, but really I have no reason to go into the house. All the food, couches and TV I could handle was right there for me when I passed through the door.

Speaking of doors, let’s walk right in to the next topic (sorry about that).

School.

My parents are always asking for some pictures of school. Here are some pictures of school.

Clockwise from top left: Main Building, Side detail of Main Building, South side of Campus with Business Building in Background, School Mosque, Main Building from far away, North Side of Campus classroom buildings

Alex - 2f Alex - 2e

Since I go to the American University of Sharjah, school is almost exactly the same as back home. Everything on campus other than the dorms is within a 5 minute walk of the Main Building, which is nice for when it’s hot enough to both make and burn toast on the sidewalks. That’s an exaggeration, actually. Yes, it’s pretty hot here (100F is a cool day) but it’s not completely unbearable, for me anyway. It’s the humidity that’s so bad. I posted on Facebook a while back about it feeling similar to being constantly being covered in wet Saran wrap, and hopefully that paints a picture in your mind of what it’s like here.

Classes are just like normal classes are, academic buildings look just like normal academic buildings (on the inside), dorm food tastes just like normal dorm fo- SIKE. We have camel burgers, chef-quality pastas, TWO frozen yogurt bars, pretty average other dorm food, AND fajitas that for some reason have mayonnaise in them. I’m not sure if that last one was a freak accident or not because they also served them to me on panini bread, but I double checked the menu and also double checked the “don’t try this again” box in my mind.

Everything checked out.

Differences I’ve noticed:

– The Student Center almost always has The Weeknd or Fetty Wap playing on an aux cord by the bowling alley. It’s pretty trill.

– Sometimes classes are held in conference rooms.

– 6 missed lectures -> dropped from the course, no questions asked.

– The Student Center is always packed with students. Weird huh? But the thing is, everyone here complains about how hard classes are, but if all those people spend all their time sitting on the couches between the Dunkin’ Donuts and Burger King socializing, it makes me wonder just how hard classes really are…

– The people here are generally nicer than back home. Just an observation.

– Professors love American exchange students. I’ve even actually had two of my professors introduce themselves to me.

All-in-all I think I’m going to do fine in school, because I didn’t pay a bunch of money to fly halfway across the world to mess around in school when I could (very) easily do that in Stillwater.

I’m glad that you guys are taking such an interest in this blog, because I got really self-conscious about it at first when I was only getting like 4 views per post and the only people I told about it were my parents, Lauren, and my grandma. But for real, if you have a specific question don’t hesitate to ask. I realize I kind of tangent-post but that’s just how my mind works.

Will Alex ever answer questions about local dress? Will we ever get to see a picture of a camel? Will Alex get his visa back so he can travel out of the country for Eid Al Adha? Will we have to google what Eid Al Adha is, or will Alex tell us?

Find out next time….*

By the way- I went to the top of the world the other day. Here’s some proof. Notice the things I talked about earlier about the changes in scenery. Also note the incredible thumbnail that has some great unintentional modeling and a girl in the back with her arm up.

*hopefully

Alex Pratt is a student at Oklahoma State University currently studying abroad with API in Sharjah, UAE.

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