Week 3 in Dubai

Cruising the Fjords of Oman

Submitted by Ryan Kahn on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Dubai…

My third week aboard in Dubai was an incredible experience and this trip honestly just keeps getting better and better. It feels as though I live here now, I am used to the lifestyle and the daily routine. This is great because I already feel so comfortable in a new environment, but probably not the best thing as I am not looking forward to the reality of going home in 2 weeks. 

Anyways, this third week I wanted to highlight 3 of my favorite activities that I participated in. Starting off we had a trip to the desert where we rode ATV’s, rode camels, and had dinner under the stars. This was a truly incredible experience as we were in the middle of nowhere. I have never been in an environment like this. In addition the sunset was absolutely beautiful. 

The next activity was our day trip to Oman. This was one of my favorite days of the trip so far. We drove across the border and got on a boat that took us around the fjords of Oman. This was so beautiful, like nothing I have ever seen. The cliffs that hung right next to the crystal clear water were stunning. We also went snorkeling in the water. We saw lots of different fish which was again so cool. 

The final activity that I want to highlight is going to Burj Khalifa. We went up to the 123 and 125 floors of the building and were able to look out on the city. I was standing near the top of the tallest building in the world. It was truly incredible to look out in every direction in the city of Dubai. Afterwards we went down to the Dubai Mall and Dubai Aquarium which were both overwhelmingly massive. Then I watched the light and fountain show of the Burj Khalifa from down below. It was spectacular to see the Burj lit up at night. Overall, week 3 in Dubai was amazing and I am very sad that I will be leaving in 2 weeks. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Burj Khalifa at Night

The Business of Trust in Thailand

Submitted by Josiah Taylor on the 2024 Winter BUAD program in Thailand and Australia…

A view of the road as we traveled in the red truck.

One thing I’ve learned out of the classroom on my trip is that Thai business relies heavily on trust. Companies prefer to see and know who they’re working with, and typically place a strong degree of trust in their business partners.

I saw this dynamic firsthand on a free day in Chiang Mai. Given time on our own to explore, a group of us wanted to go hiking in the nearby mountains. The way there proved to be more of a struggle than we expected, though. The mountains were about an hour drive away, and we were having a terrible time finding a driver willing to drive that distance. Finally, we found a nearby bus station that had trucks moving back and forth to the area. We took the nearest tuk tuk and headed on our way.

However, when telling the driver about our plans, he says, “I have a friend!” and before we know it, we’re headed off in his friends truck. The man who drove us charged us only 1000THB for the entire day (about $30) to take us an hour out, wait four hours for us to climb, and drive us straight back! 

We were in disbelief. We paid the money up front, so he had every opportunity to take the money and go, but because of Thai peoples’ underlying trust, he stayed for us. This was a major culture shock coming from the US, where it would cost an arm and a leg for service of that degree. It was certainly a culture shock for us, but we all agreed that Thai trust is something American businesses could use a taste of. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

Dubai Week 2

Submitted by John Kaminski on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Dubai…

My second week in Dubai was another action packed week, full of excursions and awesome new experiences. Beginning the week with a breathtaking dinner cruise where we were able to travel up and down the Dubai Marina, seeing all of the surrounding skyscrapers lit up with dazzling LED lights. The week continued with a trip to the Dubai Camel Racing Club, where we were able to experience the traditional Dubai sport of camel racing for the first time. Another excursion that we took this week was a trip into “Old Dubai” where we were able to see what Dubai looked like before all of the urbanization. During this excursion we visited the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where we learned more about the Emirati culture and etiquette, and also experienced the Dubai souks, which are huge markets filled with all types of regional goods. Following the excursion to “Old Dubai”, we took a trip to the Museum of the Future, which is an amazing and iconic structure dedicated to showcasing innovative and futuristic technologies that Dubai looks to implement within the next 50 years. We finished the week off with a quick trip into Downtown Dubai, where we briefly explored the Dubai mall, which is the largest 2nd largest mall in the world, and also got the chance to check out the outside of the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. This week featured a lot of truly unbelievable experiences, and I am excited to continue on with week 3. (Submitted on January 22, 2024)

Week 2 in Dubai

Submitted by Jacqueline Kumbatovic on the 2024 Winter CIEG program in Dubai, UAE…

Our second week in Dubai began with a trip to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in the old city. Here, we were served a delicious meal and led through the traditional style of greeting and serving someone in your home in the UAE. Lunch included chicken biryani, lamb machboos, salad, vegetable biryani, white rice, and vegetable saloona. After discussing culture at lunch, we visited the mosque where we learned about the Islamic religion.

The next day, we headed to the Museum of the Future. The outside was very modern and had such an extraordinary design. Our group explored all seven floors of the museum, including the science-based technology and AI robots.

On Saturday, we had our UD Alumni Dinner Reception at the hotel, which was a great way to network with many people who had gone to UD and now live in Dubai.

Monday was our Desert Safari Excursion, which was definitely a favorite for most of us. White SUVs picked us up and drove us through the desert, on the dunes, listening to fun Arabian music. We arrived at the camp where we rode camels, sand boarded, and a lot of people went on ATVs. We shopped, then watched dancers and a fire show while eating a delicious meal.

The Green Planet is an indoor tropical rainforest with over 3,000 plants and animals including birds, reptiles, and fish. As soon as we walked into the first floor, two sloths were roaming the banisters. I have never seen a sloth up close before. Although slow, they had a lot more mannerisms than I expected. We encountered lemurs, exotic birds, snakes, porcupines, and insects.

On Wednesday, we traveled three hours by bus to Musandam, Oman for our boat trip excursion. This has been the highlight of my trip so far. We cruised through the Strait of Hormuz, gazing at the beautiful rock structures and clear blue water. We stopped to snorkel, spotting all different types of fish, sea urchins, and coral. Back on the boat, we were served lunch, and we even saw a few dolphins from the top deck!

On Thursday, we visited the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. We took the elevator up to the 124th floor, where we stepped out onto the viewing deck with a beautiful view. We then went to the Dubai Mall, which was vast and crowded. There is an aquarium inside where we saw otters, penguins, crocodiles, sharks, sting rays, and exotic-looking fish.

This second week in Dubai was very eventful, learning and exploring so much each day. We are eager for what awaits us in the second half of our trip! (Submitted on January 21, 2024)

Day in the Elephant Park

Feeding the Elephants

Submitted by Taylor Cannon on the 2024 Winter FINC/BUAD program in Chiang Mai, Thailand…

During our time in Chiang Mai, we got to visit this elephant park in northern Thailand. This was one of the most enchanting attractions we had the privilege to attend and being able to closely interact with these elephants was a once in a lifetime experience. The elephant park we attended highlighted their commitment to conservation, education, and providing sanctuary for elephants. We had the opportunity to feed, walk with, and even get in the water and clean the animals in an ethical and safe way for both visitors and the majestic creatures. They also taught us about the daily diet of the elephants (which includes around 500 lbs of grasses and bananas daily) along with their typical lifestyle and what is required to take care of them. 

It was incredible to be able to get so close to the animals and understand their behavior on the closest level possible. Elephant parks in Chiang Mai emphasize they are not only a tourist attraction, but a journey into the heart of responsible tourism and wildlife conservation. I will be forever grateful for this astounding experience and hope others have the chance to come here if they can too! (Submitted on January 21, 2024)

Elephants and Puppies!

Elephants, Puppies, and me!

Submitted by Maggie McAfee on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Thailand…

This week, I created one of my most incredible memories yet! I got to spend the whole day at an elephant sanctuary called, “Into The Wild” in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I got to spend time with 5 elephants, two teenagers and 3 adults who were all female. I got to go on a hike in the jungle with them, feed them bananas and watermelon, give them a mud bath, create medicine balls for them, and swim with them! It was one of the best experiences of my life! The best part was swimming with them because I got to play in the water with them and help them clean off all of the mud. To top off this amazing experience, the dogs at the sanctuary just had a new litter of puppies so while we took a lunch break, I got to play and hold one month old puppies. All of the elephants in Chiang Mai are domestic elephants and if you go further into Northern Thailand, that is where you will be able to find wild elephants. It was nice to learn that Thailand has a lot of strict laws in place to help protect the elephants from hunting. Overall this was a 10/10 experience and words cannot express how great it was to be able to hang out with the elephants all day! (Submitted on January 20, 2024)

A Culinary Adventure: A Day at the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School

Submitted by Harry Anderson on the 2024 Winter FINC/BUAD program in Thailand and Australia…

Nestled amidst the lush landscapes of Chiang Mai, Thailand, lies a hidden gem for food enthusiasts – a Thai cooking school offering a hands-on experience that tantalizes the taste buds and immerses participants in the rich tapestry of Thai cuisine. Joining a class at one of these schools promises not just a culinary lesson, but a cultural journey through the flavors and
techniques that define Thai cooking.

The morning kicks off with a visit to a local market, where stall vendors guide eager students through the selection of fresh ingredients. Later at the cooking school, participants were welcomed by the inviting aromas of lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and Thai basil as we took a tour of the garden and our instructor imparted knowledge about the significance of each component
in Thai cuisine. The vibrant colors of fresh produce and spices set the stage for an unforgettable culinary adventure.

In the outdoor kitchen, the real magic unfolded. Each student was provided with a workstation and the necessary tools to recreate classic Thai dishes. The experienced instructor, with generations of culinary expertise, shared her secrets and techniques with enthusiasm and warmth. The menu included a variety of dishes, from the lesser known noodle dish Pad Si Ew to the
aromatic Yellow Curry and the refreshing mango sticky rice. Participants learned the art of balancing flavors – the perfect harmony of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy that characterizes Thai cuisine. The instructor encouraged creativity, allowing students to adjust spice levels and flavors according to personal preferences.

The highlights of the day were when we gathered to eat our creations to savor the fruits of our labor. Laughter filled the air as participants indulged in the delectable creations they crafted with their own hands. It was a shared celebration of culinary achievement and a newfound appreciation for the complexities of Thai cooking.

Beyond the recipes, the day at the Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai was a cultural immersion. Participants left not just with a collection of recipes but with a deeper understanding of the stories behind each dish and the cultural significance of food in Thai society. It’s an experience that goes beyond the palate, creating lasting memories of a day well spent in the heart of Thai culinary tradition. (Submitted on January 20, 2024)

Embracing the majestic giants

Submitted by Gerrit Elliman on the 2024 Winter BUAD program in Thailand and Australia…

When I embarked on a journey to the heart of Thailand, little did I know that the highlight of my trip would be an awe-inspiring encounter with these gentle giants – elephants. Nestled in the lush landscapes of Chiang Mai Thailand, the Elephant Sanctuary.

These pictures were taken at the Elephant sanctuary In Chiang Mai

Upon entering the sanctuary, I was immediately captivated by the harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. The air buzzed with a sense of tranquility, as these majestic beings roamed freely, unfettered by the chains of captivity. My heart swelled with joy as I observed them, their sheer size and grace leaving me in awe.

One of the most enchanting aspects of the sanctuary was the opportunity to interact with the elephants on a personal level. Guided by knowledgeable caregivers, I learned about the individual stories of each elephant – tales of resilience and triumph over adversity. The bond between the caregivers and the elephants was palpable, reflecting a deep mutual respect and affection.

Bathing the elephants was a surreal experience, as we waded into the cool waters alongside these gentle giants. The sheer joy emanating from them was infectious, creating a lasting memory etched into my mind. It was a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts and responsible tourism, ensuring these magnificent creatures thrive in their natural habitats.

Feeding time brought another layer of connection as I handed over bananas and sugarcane to these intelligent beings. Their dexterous trunks delicately plucked the treats from my hands, creating a shared moment of camaraderie between species. It was a humbling experience, reminding me of the importance of preserving the delicate balance between humans and wildlife.

As the day unfolded, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sanctuary’s commitment to ethical practices. The emphasis on education and conservation efforts showcased a dedication to ensuring the well-being of these elephants. It was a stark departure from the traditional tourist traps, emphasizing the importance of responsible and sustainable tourism.

Leaving the sanctuary, I carried with me not just a collection of photographs but a newfound appreciation for the intelligence, empathy, and sheer magnificence of elephants. The experience was a poignant reminder that by supporting ethical initiatives, we can play a role in safeguarding the future of these incredible creatures. (Submitted on January 20, 2024)

Worthwhile Waterfall

Submitted by Ava Malkin on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Thailand…

Our study abroad visit in Chiang Mai, Thailand was incredible for its features of nature, street markets, agriculture, and– for me– new experiences. One, in particular, stood out to me and a moment of impact that altered my perspective regarding my stay thus far. During the drive back from an academic excursion to the Bookworm Foundation of Thailand, our professors had us visit a waterfall called Wat Prahat Doi Suthep; this involved walking barefoot up and down large rocks, navigating through trees, and experiencing the fresh water surrounding us. Prior to this trip, I had never been huge on outdoor activities… let alone climbing up slippery rocks. However, it was a beautiful experience that proved to be one of the best memories with my classmates across the board. We all helped one another, physically holding one another’s hand or verbally motivating each other, in order for all of us to complete the trail. My peers were supportive and gave me the confidence to spend two hours exploring the waterfalls. I left feeling proud of myself for trying something out of my comfort zone; I realized that a common theme throughout my trip has been that the most spontaneous decisions prove to be the most rewarding! I look forward to more moments like that one: filled with adventure and love along the way. (Submitted on January 19, 2024)

Into the wild in Chiang Mai

Submitted by Sydney Gaffin on the 2024 Winter DIST program in Thailand…

Me feeding elephant a banana for snack

This week we traveled up north to Chiang Mai to learn more about disability studies and the culture in the more rural areas of Thailand. During the week we hit so many of Chiang Mai’s beautiful nature spots like waterfalls, hot springs and temples. As we got up to our last day we finished it with one of the most amazing experiences… Elephants. We drove 2 hours into the wild to finally get to the Elephant Sanctuary. The first activity was feeding the elephants for their daily snack time which consisted of bananas and watermelon. After snack we got to hike with the elephants which was really cool because we got to see how they are up close in the wild. After that we all made our way back and had a delicious lunch they made for us. I am really enjoying Chiang Mai because I have gotten to try more foods out of my comfort zone. As we all ate lunch together we got an amazing scenery of the elephants basking in the sun just waiting for us to join them for a mud bath to cool off. The elephant sanctuary by far was one of my favorite days on the trip because I went out of my comfort zone and tried a new experience that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. (Submitted on January 19, 2024)