Friday, November 30, 2012

Let it Rain, Let it Pour

So yesterday we got not only rain, but a thunderstorm.  I love it when it rains at home and I didn't realize how much I missed the rain until yesterday.  Earlier that morning, it was sprinkling, but not too bad, so me and a friend, Danna, walked down to the little shopping center, Matajir.  It's not that big, it has a Carrefour, McDonalds, Shakespeare and Co, and a bakery, among other things.  We were getting groceries and then stopping by the bakery to get some fresh homemade Manakheesh.  It was very good.   When we turned to head back to the university, it was pouring buckets full from the sky.  We watched it just puddle outside for a few minute.  Around the entrances to buildings and then even on the ground between buildings in our academic quad(ish) there are these large tiles.  So the water was starting to create large puddles on these tiles and not soaking into the ground.  Slowly the water started to building up and the automatic doors were open for some reason and so the water was slowly piling up from the outside and spreading indoors.  It was a mess. 

We eventually were able to call a taxi and get back to the dorms, only slightly drenched.  On the way back though, the taxi was driving and sending up these huge sprays of water from where it collected on the road.  I guess rain is enough of a commodity to mean that not all roads are made with good drainage systems.  I heard Sheik Zayed road, which goes into Dubai, can get really bad at times from water build-up.  As we passed onto campus, right beyond the gate, there was enough of a dip, that the water was collected in just a big puddle and was sloshing over the sides of the curb.  I wished I had my camera to take a picture at that point.

This weekend is also National Day Weekend.  So we have Sunday and Monday off from school.  It's a four day weekend, yay!  Although I've been asking some of my classmates if they have any great plans and most say no.  This weekend is being used as a weekend to catch up on sleeping, eating, and studying.  Unfortunately this weekend falls around the time for a second round of midterms.  I myself have a midterm coming up this week and then next week and then a paper due the following week, etc. until the end of classes, which is around the time of the new year.  It's January 7th in all actuality.  The end of the semester is coming closer and either some of friends are counting it down or avoiding considering the last day of classes.  I'm somewhere in the middle.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Zoo, Zoo, Zoo, we're going to the zoo...

So this past weekend was another three day weekend to enjoy.  It was the hijra holiday on Thursday, which is the first day for the Islamic year.  So despite upcoming midterm and other homework overloads, myself and another friend, took a trip to Al Ain in the Abu Dhabi emirate.  It was an adventure of itself.  We originally planned to stay until later evening, but ended coming back early.

So we took public transportation which was old, but air conditioned.  It was thirty dirhams to get to al Ain.  My friend thought we were getting stares, but I mean she's tall and I'm really pale which is one reason we stand out.  We sat in the ladies only sections, but there was this kid sitting in the row behind us who kept sticking his head between my friend's and my seats.  That was slightly annoying.

After getting to the bus station in Al Ain, we took a taxi to the mall were we had lunch at Applebees.  I know I fly half way around the world and end up eating at an American restaurant, but my friend had never eaten there, so we got the lunch special and then took another taxi to the zoo.

The zoo was a decent size.  There were lions and tigers and bears (oh my!") as well as lots of African safari animals and monkeys.  The zoo wasn't the biggest or nicest I've seen, but still a nice place to go.  There's a park inside the zoo that big and rather nice.  My favorite part was being able to feed the giraffes.  You really got to see them up close and personal.  There's tongues are really long and they have really big heads.  The weather was also beautiful and perfect, so it only made the day more enjoyable.

We finished off the day with a return trip to the Al Ain mall and eating at Shahryar Restaurant (Iranian food).  Overall it was a fun and enjoyable trip.

As a sidenote, we went to the movies today to Skyfall.  It was so very very good.  We got waffles will in the theater.  It was a first time for me to eat waffles with Nutella instead of eating popcorn in the movie theater.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Same Difference

One of the humanities classes offered at AUS is the Communication Across Culture's class and students in this class needed to conduct an interview with an exchange student concerning AUS and how it is the same/different than their home school experience.  I felt vary much the celebrity when I had three different groups asking me for an interview.  After having completed one and then looking towards the two that I have next week, it has given me the opportunity to look at the differences between Wellesley and the American University if Sharjah.

One question asked me about the difference in peoples and cultures and my experience with culture shock.  I have since adjusted fairly well(I think), but there are some differences.  Here the abaya and dishdasha are commonly worn to class.  That was a difference, but I also had this impression that the abaya was worn very plainly which is clearly not the case.  I'm actually kinda' envious of some of the styles that have these sleeves which are wide from the elbow to the wrist.  Making friends and interacting with other students and professors, wasn't some big deal.  Back to clothing, but there is the feeling to dress up for class here more than I would do so at home.  Occasionally I'll where jeans and a t-shirt, but I other students are usually much more put together. 

Classes and such are structured very similarly to American style teaching, because that is the basis of the school system at AUS.  More specifically comparing to Wellesley, I feel there is a lot more stuff that just needs to get finished.  Also at Wellesley I feel that between homework or studying for exams students in the same class at least get to know a few people in class.  My classes are still relatively small, but there's no "class spirit" if there is such a thing.

The biggest difference to adjust is not the shifted schedule, where we start classes on Sunday and end on Thursday.  It is not scheduling to take exams outside of classtime.  It is probably the residential life that is so different from Wellesley.  The dorms are newer than Wellesley and hallways are very open, but no one really keeps doors open like where I lived in Freeman for the past two years.  At Wellesley you can fill your life with school, work, and then squeeze a few extracurriculars to leave you in a constant panic.  Clubs and orgs are different here.  A normal club runs about 1000 people and hosts a few events during the semester.  Like the Book Club is going to the International Book Fair in Sharjah next week.  There is a music club, but I've had trouble finding information about their activities.  The clubs here are much larger and hold less frequent activities.  On the weekends at Wellesley, almost every weekend, expect maybe at the very beginning of the semester there is something going on on campus.  So reorienting my life from extracurriculars was a big difference and probably the one I took the longest time adjusting to.

After talking about all these differences, but I'm still enjoying my time here.  Classes are heating up as we past the midpoint in the semester.  It's nice to not have a million things to be doing for clubs, as a full course load here is 5 courses.  One course may not make much of a difference until you count in the fact that there is now 3 hours more of class time and whatever other time for homework.  That was another adjustment for me.  And contrary to what I was told, just because you are an exchange student doesn't mean you will have easier courses.  I feel that courses here don't offer the same stress perhaps as my Wellesley courses, but are definitely close to par learning wise.  I especially love the Language lab we have once a week for Arabic.