by Max Kramer
During spring break, I had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of traveling to Dubai with eight other Honors Program students and Prof. Ralph Begleiter through the Honors section of the Global Agenda course. An eye opening and life changing experience, we all learned so much about the culture, political situation, and the economics of the United Arab Emirates and the greater Middle East region of the world.
The opportunities that this trip offered to us were both extraordinary and endless. We had the chance to visit a historic town in Hatta and see the way people lived pre-modernization no more than fifty years ago! We saw Old Dubai by visiting the Dubai Museum and the traditional souks, or marketplaces. We experienced New Dubai by visiting the Dubai Mall, which is the largest in the world, and traveling 124 stories to the top of the planet’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. We got to go dune bashing, which is quad-biking over the desert dunes (something we did not even know existed prior to the trip!) and had the chance to visit Abu Dhabi, the capital, and meet with the UAE Foreign Ministry and staff at the US Embassy. The trip also took us to one of the world’s most extravagant and breathtaking mosques, the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi. The combination of all of these things and much more made for an unforgettable week.
But the best part of the trip for me and I think for many of the students on the trip was not the sites or the activities (though those were all amazing!). The main purpose of the trip was to visit with a group of female students from Zayed University with whom we videoconference weekly for the Honors Section of Global Agenda this semester. I think it is fair to say that all of our preconceived notions were largely proven incorrect and our expectations exceeded. I think none of us knew the extent of the Arab hospitality that we would be met with in the United Arab Emirates nor did we truly know how many opportunities there were for women in a country surrounded by others that face harsh repression. The opportunity to spend the week with the girls and talk about things ranging from culture to our two political systems created friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that we will keep forever.
We were introduced to a whole new culture, got to live in that culture for the week, and made some lifelong friends along the way.
This trip, I’d say, as aforementioned, for all of us, was eye opening and life changing. We were introduced to a whole new culture, got to live in that culture for the week, and made some lifelong friends along the way. I think it is fair to say that if it weren’t for this program not many of us would have students halfway across the world that we can learn from, keep in contact with, and call some of our best friends. I give a huge thank you to all of the UD departments who made this trip possible with their financial contributions: Alumni Relations, the Honors Program, the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the department of Political Science and International Relations. This trip would not have been possible without their generosity. Thank you also to Ralph Begleiter for organizing this trip and giving us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do things we could have never imagined possible!