More Than Meets The Eye

In our first meeting with students from the American University of Sharjah, we were asked to “reflect on the differences between where you grew up or where you live now and where your exchange partners live. Some factors for us to  consider were the environment, and culture.”


After our first session, my group which consisted of Tia, Emily, Jonah, Rashid, Malika and myself came away with one major similarity; we were for the most part from small towns. 

Rashid: From a more modernized city 30 mins away from Sharjah

Emily: Small town in New York

Tia: Small town in Delaware

Malika: From Kashmir 

Mason: Small town in CT

Jonah: Small town in PA 


We discussed our hometowns in detail after noticing we shared this similarity.On the American side of the conversation, most of us grew up on the East Coast; from this shared background we noticed many similarities. I described my hometown, Farmington, Connecticut as a quiet town dominated by a women’s school called Ms Porters yet there wasn’t much to do in town. I said I often spent time in neighboring towns as they gave me access to activities such as films, sport games as well as my high school. This view was echoed by the rest of the Americans.

This is 5 minutes away from my house in Farmington and I routinely walk there. Photo provided by myself.

On the Sharjah side of the conversation; we saw two different views on life. Malika brought up how because she was born in Kashmir; a conflict region between India and Pakistan and that as a result, she viewed her hometown with more gratitude, care and attention. Rashid, being born a half hour away from Sharjah, discussed how he grew up in Sharjah and felt more comfortable being there than in his hometown. 

A photo of Sharjah courtesy of Google Images

We all had access to major cities such as New York or Sharjah and yet we preferred to remain in our small towns whether that be for familiarity, comfort or just a sense of home. The fact that we had all spoken along this same wavelength was a major shock factor for me. I had walked into the discussion thinking that there would be a majority of people from major cities, yet it was the complete opposite. It felt comforting knowing I was surrounded by people who had a common background and that we were all in the same boat no matter where we came from.

Speaking with my peers and getting to learn more about their hometowns and where they came from culturally was an experience I will always be grateful for. We found a key point of similarity among the vast differences in where we are all from. I personally enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds because it helps widen my world view. In the words of J.R.R Tolkien, not all those who wander are lost.

4 responses to “More Than Meets The Eye”

  1. First, I want to thank Mason for providing a meaningful and informative depiction of our first zoom conference. Moving on, I applaud that he split the blog post into two sections, discussing the American side and the Emirati, specifically the Sharjah side. Moreover, by doing that, he highlighted how we come from different societies and cultural backgrounds. Before I elaborate any further, I want to rectify Mason’s comment about my upbringing and state that I am originally from a rural town outside of Sharjah called Umm AlQuwain, which is the most unmodernized emirate in the UAE. Regardless, Mason showed a profound understanding of the similarities and differences in the environment we adapted from, whether in the UAE, the US, or Kashmir. The display of imagery used by Mason was also a commendable aspect and brought forth a new layer of understanding of where everyone came from and how unified we are as people. In conclusion, I would like to ask Mason about Middle-Eastern society and culture. What is the most intriguing aspect you find about Middle-Eastern society and culture?

    • The most intriguing aspect of Middle Eastern culture in my eyes is the whitewashing that American news outlets spout to their respective audiences. Having been fortunate enough to visit Israel and Turkey and being able to meet so many wonderful people during my time there; it makes me wonder why Americans choose to focus on the negatives when there are so many positives.

  2. Thank you Mason for the welcome insights and conversation detailing your experience with the virtual exchange with the students from AUS and Dickinson college. The shared similarities you went over in your blog are always a source of interesting conversation, and the shared background of being from small towns lays an interesting foundation for future discussion about how small town uobringings differ from one side of the Globe to another.

    My experience also ended with reflection on shared similarities, some of us coming from small towns, but more importantly, we found a commonality in our idea of fun and our affinity for down time with our friends over anything else. I myself work closely with exchange students from all over the world, and finding these things to bond over is the most enriching and rewarding interaction, and I truly do hope that you Mason continue to engage and celebrate both the differences and similarities that define us. Having said that, what do you think is the most overt similarity in the UAE and the Unoted States? What are the implications that come with such similarities?

    • I think that the implications of these similarities provides a sense of unification, if you can put it like that. For two different groups of people whose members share the same backgrounds just under different circumstances coming together and embracing that fact, then that is a small step on the path to global unification.

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