“Reflect on the differences between where you grew up or where you live now and where your exchange partners live. Some factors to consider here are the universal and the particular, environment and culture.”

When I began the meeting, I had anticipated a discussion into the similarities and differences between the United States and the United Arab Emirates regarding food, the weather, or maybe classes. Although we did initially talk about the weather and the difference between the cold climate in Pennsylvania and the dunes, cities, and mountains in the United Arab Emirates, the following topic was much more interesting. 

 Surprisingly, our conversation began to take a quick but welcome turn into the nature of our communities, and culture. In my case, I could compare the relatively small town I grew up in and the tight-knit communities my peers had experienced in their homes in the UAE. We had many similarities, such as the feeling that our parents and family knew everyone and everything happening in our neighborhoods. It brought to mind shopping with my parents and being held up by every childhood friend and acquaintance stopping to say hello. 


Among these similarities were other feelings of pressure to succeed, perhaps from friends and parents due to the small size of the communities in our hometowns. Maybe it allows easy examples for parents to compare successes.

We also discussed our schools and the fact that we were, as evident by this meeting, connected by our political science course. We found differences, though, in the possible rigors of the schooling curriculum, as one of the group members who had experienced both pointed out. We shared similar struggles with our peers, especially when facing the pressure to look and act a certain way. I initially imagined large differences, perhaps due to the distance between the two countries. However, I was pleased to find that we could discuss far more similarities than differences.

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