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Finals and Farewells

Last week, we heard all about Jordan’s final weekend trip to Oman as an exchange student at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. As he inches towards his final days, everything is coming full-circle for this See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipient; and it is all bittersweet. It is time to end the experience of a lifetime, and at the same time, get ready for his final semester back at Howard University.

In the midst of preparations for finals, making presentations, and writing papers, Jordan has had little time to do anything outside of schoolwork. But this past weekend a farewell dinner was given in honor of the students. The dinner was held at the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club, a local country club where all of the expats play golf. The dinner was simple, allowing time for picture taking and reminiscing on each student’s favorite experiences and the things that they’ll miss most.

 

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One Last Hurrah

It was a weekend in Doha, the site of the 2022 World Cup, and time spent at Pearl Qatar, amongst other things, when we last checked in with one of Black Entrepreneur’s See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipients, Jordan.

As the days dwindle down on his study abroad program, Jordan made himself a goal to do some final adventurous things before leaving. Particularly, like seeing more countries in the area. So he took a weekend trip with the same group of friends to Oman, “the Arizona of the Middle East”, a country right under the UAE.

 

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Doha Style

After a fairly quiet week of attending a friend’s performance of “The Little Shop Of Horrors” and making class presentations the last time we checked in with Jordan, he is back to adventurous times in United Arab Emirates.

This past weekend turned out to be one of Jordan’s favorite weekends. It started off with a trip to Doha, the site of the 2022 World Cup, with he and four other exchange students.

 

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The Winding Down

Every week Jordan has kept us excited with his new adventures and experiences. The last update was no different when after an intense week of test taking; he was able to get away to the Arabian Gulf and Oman. Now that this See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipient is approaching the end of the semester as well as his study abroad program, things are slowing down a bit. To give an example, the latest highlights of Jordan’s week consist of seeing a musical on campus and giving a few class presentations.

The AUS theater group performed the classic “Little Shop of Horrors” and because Jordan dabbled a little in theatre back in high school, it was cool for him to see a school production. Last Wednesday was closing night so he and a few of the other exchange students went to support an American exchange student that had a pretty big role as a doo-wop girl in the production.


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From Desert to Sea

Last week, we heard all about Jordan’s spring break adventures in Thailand—a well-deserved getaway for one of BE’s See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipients. Even though there was no real time to prepare, as soon as it was over he plunged in headfirst preparing for his midterms.

The first things Jordan noticed once he returned were that classes were empty and libraries were packed—signs of midterms and project week. AUS’s second midterm is scheduled immediately after spring break so 48 hours after returning from Bangkok, Jordan was met with his first midterm of the week. However, he was smart enough to study on the long flight back.

After an arduous week of test taking, the exchange office treated the students on the annual exchange trip to Musandam, Oman: a beautiful beachside area off of the Gulf, bordering the UAE. The group took a 3-hour drive from Sharjah to Oman at 6 A.M. Once clearing border patrol, it was only a 1-minute drive to the beach to board their boat. After a 30-minute boat ride deeper into the Gulf, they idled at the main hub for the trip. They spent hours jumping into the extremely salty waters of the Arabian Gulf to cool off from the beaming sun. And for the first time in his life, Jordan was able to snorkel.

 

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Thai Spring Break Adventures

Last time we checked in on Jordan, he was so excited about his spring break trip to Thailand that he feared a visit from his family would delay it. Well, this week we’re going to hear all about that greatly anticipated getaway!

Jordan says it was difficult for him to even imagine having a spring break when this whole study abroad experience in Emirates has already felt like a study vacation. Nevertheless, the opportunity to visit Thailand for the first time with a couple of other exchange students, led him to Southeast Asia.

 

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A Family that Vacays Together

Last time when we checked in with Jordan, one of BE’s See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipients, he was lighting up the city of Abu Dhabi and learning about the religious culture at theSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This week, he was in for a pleasant surprise.

When Jordan’s family first told him they would be visiting, he was a little irritated because it would interfere with his spring break plans. He quickly got over it once they arrived, reminding him just how much he’d missed them. He soon realized how lucky he was when other exchange students said they envied his opportunity to have his father, mother, brother and two dear family friends witness how he’d adjusted to a new culture. Jordan soon became eager to make his family proud.

The first night they all dined at a Lebanese restaurant. It was nice for Jordan to hear his family’s first impressions of the city he had become so accustomed to. And it was wonderful to hear his dad entertain the group with stories of learning the Arabic signs, learning to use the train station, and learning the differences in culture.

 

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A Glimpse into the Abu Dhabian Future

Jordan Sparks’ “Arabian Nights” experience, sleeping and hanging out with friends in the desert, was just last week’s adventure. Every week is a brand new experience for BE’s See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipients.  And this week, was no different for Jordan.

The university’s exchange office took the group on a 2-hour trip to Abu Dhabi to see the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Saadiyat Island. The first time Jordan visited Abu Dhabi, he passed the Grand Mosque, viewing it in the distance from the highway. While it looked like a large spectacle at the time, it didn’t impress him until he saw it up close.

 

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Arabian Nights

When we left Jordan last, he was recovering from midterm exams and enjoying a weekend away at a fellow student’s home. Just like past weeks, BE’s See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipient has reported back to us on something exciting and new.

The exchange office scheduled for some of the students to do an overnight desert safari trip, and Jordan knew instantly he had to participate—dreaming about the Instagram pictures and Snapchats he would take and share. What else besides social media updates could rub in the fact to his classmates back home that he’s in the Middle East than pictures of him in the desert?

 

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Jordan's "Sand of Brothers" with the beautiful desert landscape in the background.

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Well-Deserved Rest for the Weary

Last week when Jordan was having his “when in Rome” experience, he was just starting to become totally acclimated to Emirati culture. This week, Jordan spent some time with a native family and got a little taste of the TLC he’s missed being away from family.

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Doing as the Romans Do

Following Jordan these past seven weeks, we’ve watched him become well acquainted with the ways of Emirati culture as he’s settled in to his temporary home. We were even privy to his short-lived case of homesickness last week, the AUS Carnival, and his trip to Fujairah.

Well, just as every prior week, BE’s See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipient is on to new adventures! This time, organized by the exchange office for the students, it’s a trip to Global Village (claimed to be the world’s largest tourism, leisure, and entertainment project). Global Village is essentially a massive area off the freeway, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, between Dubai and Sharjah, featuring more than 30 different shopping pavilions representing different countries.

 

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A Carnival of a Time

Last week one of the See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipients, Jordan Sparks was in the throes of campus life activities. With a full week of the Club Fair, the unexpected rain showers interrupting daily commutes, and ending the week with an exciting Football match, he has settled in quite nicely.

It has been one month since Jordan landed in Emirates. And this week, he admits that a little homesickness has finally crept upon him. But the AUS (American University of Sharjah) Carnival was just in time to help cure his longing for Texas and the US when, amongst the numerous food trucks and carnival games for he and his fellow students to spend their money on, there were live performances by bands and singing from some of the student body, he was reminded of the local carnivals he grew up attending. No, there was no John Legend to perform, a huge Ferris wheel, or any Rodeo competitions, but the carnival gave him the taste and feel of home.

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Never a Dull Moment in Sharjah

Last week, we reported on Jordan’s weekend excursion in Dubai with some fellow classmates. Now that this hardworking exchange student is back in class, he tells us that campus life is just as exciting and eventful. There was a full week of the Club Fair, where campus clubs try to attract students with good food and fancy booths to join them. The fair, held in the Student Center, is also one of the few events on campus that the Sheikh or the Chancellor will show up to. And the Club Fair is an opportunity for students to get great cultural dishes such as, fat pots of rice, huge bowls of chicken and the American Club’s chicken burritos.

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Stepping Out in Dubai

Last week when we left Jordan, one of Black Entrepreneurs Inc.’s, See the World, BE the Future scholarship recipients, he was immersed in a new kind of culture shock. This week he reports back to us with new experiences in diversity in the Middle East!

Jordan, and a few other exchange students, decided to split expenses and have a weekend excursion in Dubai. Not only were they anxious to find out what the nightlife was all about, but also they wanted to revisit the Jumeirah Beach from when they first arrived orientation week.

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New Lessons in Diversity

Last week, Jordan was continuing his love affair with the UAE that started in his high school days. This week, he reports the new respect he’s gaining on cultural diversities. After all, that is a big part of what BE's See the World, BE the Future program is all about.

 

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A Deeper Love and Understanding

Instead of waking up and eating a nice breakfast, going to church, or watching the Houston Texan’s game on Sunday morning, Jordan’s first class of the semester in Sharjah started promptly at 2:00 P.M. Sunday also marked the end of orientation week for him and all of the new students. As he reflected upon what he’d learned the first week, he was coming to have a better understanding of Middle Eastern culture.

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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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