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The Palace He Calls Home

After a brutal 15-hour flight on the upscale Fly Emirates Airline, Jordan Sparks touched down in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The cramped space, uncomfortable sleeping positions, and subpar movie selections was soon overshadowed by the feelings of curiosity and anxiety of the experience he’d soon be taking in...

jordansparks 4                                                                                                                                                                                      Jordan Sparks 

Jordan is a Junior International Business major at Howard University studying abroad at the United Arab Emirates' American University of Sharjah. Once he made the decision to participate in the Study Abroad ISEP Direct! program, his family asked him daily how he felt—if he were nervous, excited, or what; but all he felt was anxiousness to see what he’d gotten himself into. ISEP Direct! is a program for undergrad and graduate students available for either one year or a semester from all member institutions. Students will travel to the Middle East to study at the American University of Sharjah, taking courses in English, but encouraged to take advantage of the numerous courses in Arabic language, literature and Middle East culture, history and contemporary politics.

Jordan is one of our See the World, BE the Future (STWBTF) scholarship recipients.  He is also the STWBTF scholar that we have chosen to profile for his study aboard to UAE for this Spring 2016 cycle.  So if you would like to learn more about Jordan and what all has happened with him in the last week on his trip to the UAE, come back each week for the next 5 months for the latest! 

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The main administrative building at the 'mini palace' that Jordan will call school for the next five months.

After his arrival, his drive to the campus revealed sights that simply blew him away. It was around 7 P.M. and he could see bright lights shining from a huge dome-like building, creating a huge spectacle. Instantly, he thought it must be 'the Super Bowl of Emirates' but when he came closer, the extravagant ‘spectacle’ he saw from afar turned out to be the announcement of a simple Alumni dinner.

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The School of Business Administration building that Jordan will be taking most of his classes.

Needless to say, Jordan did not get much sleep that night.  So early the next morning, he ended up taking a walk around this magnificent campus and was just as astounded as he was the night before when he realized that his home for the five months would be more like a mini palace than a university.

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Rearview of the main administrative building and a personal view of Jordan's walk on to campus from his dorm room.

On the second day of being on campus, the Chancellor and the Provost gave speeches to the parents and freshmen students. Jordan quickly learned that there is a common theme among nervous parents of every culture, handing over their child to study far away from home. Only 16% of the university’s students are Emiratis. So parents spend a lot of money sending and entrusting their kids to the university’s faculty. The fact that there are a small percentage of local students is how the university remains competitive and gains recognition, not only in the Middle East, but also around the world.

Some of the information provided on Jordan’s first day was the same every student gets, but instead of tightly going over the dorm rules multiple times with, “don’t mess up or you’ll be kicked out,” the Director glossed over the rules and spent most of the time showing Jordan the amenities of the campus: fitness room, TV room, laundry facility, games, etc. Jordan was overwhelmed to learn that everything was free for the students and quickly made the comparison to his home university, Howard. And the best part was to learn that there would be a cleaning service coming twice a week to clean the student’s rooms and bathrooms.

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A view of the Mosque on campus, right across from the Administrative building.

Outside of the U.S., specifically in the Middle East, higher education isn’t something that everyone has access to or are privileged enough to have. It is simply not as accessible as it is in the United States. Jordan clearly realized this and just how lower income families and students are hindered from an experience such as this when he was initially catered to upon his arrival, feeling as though he and the other students were attending a private country club with endless perks. To his chagrin, he feels this further perpetuates the cycle of keeping people at the bottom while others remain on top.

With that aside, Jordan is confident that he will continue to enjoy every bit of his time in United Arab of Emirates and is grateful to have the opportunity to study abroad, and for the doors that opened for him to receive a higher education as an American student at the United Arab Emirates’ American University of Sharjah.

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A look at the new students (including Jordan) studying abroad for the semester.

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