February 22, 2022
Jayla studied with the Globalization of Consumption and Community program in Dubai during the winter of 2021. She recently shared her experience with the Office of Education Abroad. Here is his story:
This study abroad advanced my academic research because it touched on an area of political science that interests me, namely international relations. I am doing a minor in French language and culture because I hope to do something in international studies at some point in my life. Global politics and cultural studies is a field I want to delve into after graduation, and this program has given me experience in this field and could possibly open doors for future career endeavours. In addition, this program abroad served to meet my experiential learning needs.
Personally, I was impacted by this study abroad in a positive way. It was the first time I was in an area that was not Western and had big cultural differences that I had to adapt to. For example, I had never been to a country where I had to be especially aware of what I wore and how I interacted with others in public (like not being loud or causing a public disturbance). Although different, it was interesting to participate in, and once adjusted, it was not as difficult as some make it out to be. You just need to be open-minded and tolerant of other cultures.
One thing I learned about Emirati culture is that there is a deeper awareness of smells than in the United States. Almost everywhere we went there were people selling perfumes, incense or oils. For example, after having dinner at the Al Maktoum Center for Cultural Understanding, we were offered to bask in an incense that would rid us of the smell of food. I appreciated this aspect of the host culture as I am a person who loves perfumes and often cares about my smell.
People often have a misconception that the environment in Dubai is very strict and stuffy because it is Middle Eastern and monarchical. Although it is much more traditional than America and some customs are meant to be followed, it is not as conservative as most people think. As long as the culture is respected you won’t be disturbed and everyone I’ve met has been very understanding that I’m a traveler who will blunder.
My experience in this city may differ from others because I am black and female. For example, I was often asked and complimented on my hair and people were curious to know what country I was from. I did have a few experiences with others that made me feel uncomfortable, but most of them were out of ignorance and not out of malice. I was reminded that many people don’t have much experience dealing with African Americans and often have no intention of being rude, they are just uneducated. While it’s important to correct others when they’re wrong with you, especially on socio-economic grounds, it’s equally important to recognize that people will make mistakes because they’re human.