Study Abroad in Dubai, UAE

"The destination is much less a place than a new way of seeing things."

--- Henry Miller

On Tuesday, January 5th 2010 I will be flying to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for a semester study abroad at the American University in Dubai. This will fulfill my last requirement for graduation as an International Studies major from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At AUD I will primarily be studying Middle Eastern Studies, including comparative politics, history and media as well as Arabic.

I was originally supposed to study abroad in Fall of 2009 but due to some last minute administrative mix-ups, I had to postpone my trip to Spring 2010. So finally, after what seems like quite a build up of anticipation, I will be heading off to the Middle East. This will constitute my most extensive stay abroad, save my current residence in the United States from 1998 onwards. I spent about three and a half weeks in Istanbul, Turkey my freshman year through a study abroad program.

In an effort to centralize all of my experiences and engage with my time in Dubai in a meaningful way, I will be using this blog to publish how I spend my time in the UAE. Readers can expect to see photos, videos, essays, ruminations, etc. here. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, readers can also follow my tweets from Dubai, subscribe to my Flickr feed, follow me on Google Reader or find out more about me on Facebook.

As means of a quick summary of my pursuits in the area thus far - I am an International Studies major at the University of Illinois. In my major, I have focused on studying the Middle East/Arab world with particular interest in political science, comparative politics, international relations, political communication, new media studies, sociology, gender studies and history as it pertains to this region of the world. In addition to my interest in the social sciences, I have taken six semesters of Arabic yet have barely begun to scratch the surface of this rather challenging language. Although being a native Hindi speaker did help in some ways, Arabic is altogether a complicated language unto itself and I'm looking forward to furthering my study of Arabic at AUD.

A little about Dubai - Dubai is one of seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates and holds one of two vetoes (along with Abu Dhabi) in the federal congregation. The majority of the Dubai's success was once built upon the oil industry, but now primarily consists of tourism, property and financial services. Dubai is considered by many as a truly global city because of its multi-cultural landscape, large expatriate populations and status in the world as a luxurious tourist destination. As such, Dubai will give me yet another experience of a city and culture on the brink (the others being New Delhi, my birthplace and Istanbul). As I found in my time in Istanbul, the city of Istanbul and the country of Turkey were both in the process of forging their own identity as entities caught between two worlds. I'm interested to see if Dubai, similarly, has developed an identity as a city placed in the Middle East yet exhibiting all the characteristics of Western life. Ultimately, I find this identity is an interesting case study in the way in which cultures, or as Huntington would say "civilizations," interact. These contact points often serve as interesting anecdotes for how the larger global context may take shape in the future.

In an effort to stop the guess work, I'll leave the rest of my observations about Dubai for when I get there. In the meantime, I would encourage readers to comment and dialog on this blog as I spend the next 4 months in the Middle East. If I know you personally, I would love to hear from you. If we're not friends yet, I hope you'll comment so I can expand the scope of this blog beyond a personal-public journal.