Small Campus Experience

One of the differences in my experience this semester at AUD has been something that is not necessarily tied to the culture or location of Dubai, but more to the differences in the size of AUD and the University of Illinois. AUD is a rather small university with a small campus. Compared to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my home institution, AUD could fit completely in of the small quadrangle areas at UIUC. Class sizes here are small (6-30 in my classes), there are not very many academic buildings, libraries or student facilities and the relationships between professors and their students is noticeably different.

This carries with it some inherent differences, when compared to the collegiate experience I have had thus far at U of I. Being one of 40,000 plus students at UIUC really requires you to make your own place or run the risk of being swallowed up in the sea of faces and names. Here at AUD it’s pretty easy after a week of walking around campus to start recognizing faces (and beyond that, get involved in people’s gossip, a la high school).

I have been working with various members of the faculty and staff here at AUD pretty regularly throughout the semester to gain access to some of the media facilities located near my campus (mainly MBC and Al-Arabiyya) and they have been really helpful and accessible. Although it certainly took the initial impetus from my end, the ease of accessing these professionals and getting the ball rolling on this project was pretty remarkable. At UIUC on the other hand, without a great deal of courage and confidence (or even mere awareness) it is pretty easy to float by and find yourself on the graduation stage receiving your diploma.

I don’t mean to attach any value judgments to these differences, just to point out the different experience I’m having at a small school versus the one I’ve had for the last 3 and a half years at a big school. If it weren’t for my personal goals and motivations, I don’t think I would have gained as much as I did from my time at UIUC. On the other hand, there is a limited amount of things to gain here at AUD, given its small size and scope and overall lack of development.

There are many more differences I could point out between these two experiences, but ultimately what is important is that these things would have been valuable to know in high school when I was deciding about college. I think I had the best experience I could have at UIUC and it was the best choice for me, but perhaps it just happened to work out that way. I think there’s also some importance in the idea of being prepared for life after college. The immersive experience that U of I can offer (often referred to as the U of I bubble) can really be distracting for the 3-5 years that most spend there as undergrads. As with everything this has its positives and negatives. It allows you to feel like you can concentrate on being a college student and gain a ton from all the experiences you’re having, but then it also brings with it a tough reality check when it is time to leave. I would just advise those with still some time left to continue to enjoy the immersion, but also keep the reality of graduation in the back of your heads. And to those who are ready to graduate: I think we can rest happily knowing we gained a lot from our immersion the last 3-5 years, and now we can move on to another community.

I will now be dismounting from my soapbox. But not before asking for your thoughts on the matter, so do share if you care to.