Where I Live: Where They Live

What is home? Is home the place you currently reside? or Is home a place that defines you? These are the questions that I was curious about when I was given the opportunity to speak to exchange partners attending American University of Sharjah. 

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Living my whole life in Dubai, I was not really able to compare my home with the students at American University of Sharjah. In my breakout room, there was a student who has studied in a small town in the USA for 9 months. I was able to connect with her about our experience in a small town in the USA and compare the difference between both countries. One thing that she mentioned was the difference in cuisines; the USA tend to have hefty amount of food compared to the UAE. In addition, the food in the UAE use difference seasoning to make each meal flavorful but in the USA, the food are less seasoned with little spice. One thing we both agreed on was missing the authentic shawarma selling on the street market; this is a staple.

Spending almost three years in Carlisle, I have witness the geographical difference. Back home, I reside in the city where I am able to walk to shops and business hours are open late. Compared to Carlisle, a small town, where driving is necessary to go to shops such as grocery stores or the mall. In addition, Carlisle shops close early and are closed on Sunday and Monday’s. Another thing that I witness is in Carlisle, there are many green areas such as hiking trails, golf course, and farms. But in Dubai, there is no open area instead there are large structures and busy roads.

There are also culture and religion difference between both countries. In Carlisle, the town is filled with mostly Christian/Catholic religions with various churches spread throughout Central Pennsylvania. With most of USA being Christian dominate, most people celebrate religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and etc. This was new to me when arriving to the states, but I was able to learn about these holidays from friends. In comparison to the UAE, majority Islamic religion, people celebrate Ramadan and Eid. Being Muslim, I see the difference when celebrating Ramadan in the USA and UAE. Back home, I will be fasting and praying at local mosque with family. But in the USA, I fast with my fellow Muslim friends and pray in my dorm.

Another difference between the two geographic location was the climate. The students from American University of Sharjah explained the summer in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is very hot; hearing this I was not surprised. Many residents of the UAE do not go outside at all because of the extreme heat. Some of my classmates at Dickinson College was astonished to hear that the summer in the UAE was brutal. Since in the USA, summer is typically a time where you see many people spending time outside, soaking up the sun. My time in Carlisle, I have seen how confusing the weather is; changing between cold and warm temperature throughout the weekend. Compared to the UAE, it is always warm due to the geographical location; definitely missing home very much currently!!

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates 

Since there was no difference between where I grew up and where my exchange partner lives regarding geographical and culture difference. I was able to learn about the difference between university life between two countries. During our breakout room sessions, one of my group was discussing the university 

There are some things I have learned is the cafeteria food is not that good in both university, which was surprising to me because I did not expect the food to be bad in the American University of Sharjah. Another thing that I learned is that classes was very similar to USA university; there was a student who was studying abroad at Sharjah from University of Mississippi and he explained that classes and dorms were very similar. I thought that was interesting because I thought there was going to be difference in college life due to culture.

During our introduction, we were share an item that was significant to us to share with other students. I chose to share a gold necklace that my mom had gifted me before I attended university in the United States of America (USA). The reason why I chose item because it reminded me of a piece of home. This was a universal theme that was found in most students; some bought pictures and clothing items that reminds them of home despite the fact that both university are across the globe from each other. 


There is no major difference in personal experience between both students from different university; I feel like we all share the similar experience has college students. I feel like this is an amazing opportunity to connect with students from American University of Sharjah because we are able to learn about different cultures and such. When coming to the USA, I was nervous to tell people that I was from the Middle East due to the stereotypes that were created by westernized views. But with opportunities like these, people are able to be open minded and not follow the stereotypes.


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3 responses to “Where I Live: Where They Live”

  1. tayee Avatar

    Thank you for sharing Humayra! I came to the same conclusion. With our very limited exchange there doesn’t seem to be much difference between us students. However, I’m sure as we spend more time and exchange blog posts that difference will be more apparent.

  2. wheelemo Avatar

    I appreciated reading about your unique perspective on the conversations that took place. Being from a similar area to that of the university in Sharjah, I feel you were the best able to reflect on the deeper cultural differences between the Universities. However, I particularly enjoyed hearing about how the similarities surprised you more than the differences. In America, we often separate ourselves from individuals living in regions that comprise the Middle East, but you outlined how we weren’t really that different after all. You had a refreshing take and I would love to hear more about your home. While Sharjah and Dubai are very close to one another, did you hear any differences that surprised you? Have you ever visited Sharjah, if so, what was it like? Did you feel, once on campus, that you were constrained by the stereotypes created by Western views?

  3. Griffin Avatar

    Your comparison between life in Dubai and Carlisle and the similarities and differences between the two universities was fascinating. It made me better understand the nuances of cultural and academic experiences across the world. Your discussion about the contrasts in cuisine between the UAE and the USA, particularly regarding portion sizes and seasoning, highlights cultural differences that are sometimes overlooked. Seeing how something as seemingly mundane as food can reveal more profound cultural differences and similarities is fascinating. Lastly, your emphasis on open-mindedness and breaking stereotypes through cross-cultural exchange is poignant and timely. Opportunities like the one you’ve experienced at Dickinson College and my interactions with AUS students have made me understand and appreciate diverse perspectives.

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