For my entire life, I’ve lived in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. In contrast to many people’s descriptions of their hometowns, where I’m from lacks a strong sense of community. This is probably in part due to the rise of working mothers, but I also think it stems from “nomadic” lifestyles and people who work in international relations or the military and therefore move frequently. My family is one of only a handful of families that has lived in my neighborhood for the past 20+ years. My parents also both grew up in the D.C. suburbs, but in different towns. Our neighborhood is an area that spans only about a 15-minute walk. Most kids in the area, including me, attended the same elementary school right up the street, go to the same pool in the summer, and go to one of the churches or synagogues right in the area. People also used to frequent the beautiful nature trails, until they were shut down to build a rail system. These spaces are our few constants, but other than that, this area feels very transient. Washington, D.C., on the other hand, has been a constant for me my entire life. It has always been my favorite city and probably always will be. It has a global feel to it, since it is where all the foreign embassies are, and they are mostly designed using the architecture of their country. The rest of the city feels more European than a city like New York, since it has older, shorter buildings. There are, of course, many people from other countries, I think in part for foreign affairs purposes, but also regular immigrants. In D.C. and two neighboring cities in northern Virginia, Arlington and Alexandria, there are lots of different foods from all around the globe. Growing up near D.C. sparked my interest in other countries and how other people are similar to and different from me. 

Students from the American University in Sharjah spoke about the different countries that they each call home. At AUS, there are students from at least Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. I learned that the majority of residents (almost 90%!) of the United Arab Emirates are expatriates. The top countries that residents are from are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. In contrast, only 13.6% of United States residents are foreign-born. Most people in the UAE practice Islam, while only 1.1% of the United States practice Islam– a big difference. 

Sharjah, as opposed to where I’ve lived, is quite large. The buildings are tall and beautiful, and they have beaches right nearby. English is the most widely-used language, but many people also speak Arabic or another language. Besides these cultural differences, life for these college students seems similar. One difference was of note: living situations. I am told that most students commute to and from school, with commute times of up to two hours. Dorms are reserved for study-abroad students or students where home is too far to simply commute. 


3 Comments so far

  1.    Cooper Carrico on February 6, 2024 11:18 am

    Hi Caroline. It was really great to read your blog and learn about you and your hometown. I particularly enjoyed your point of saying DC has such a global feel to it. That is one of my favorite parts about the district too. Getting to meet people from all around the world and visiting the streets where all the foreign embassies are really shaped my perspective and led me to study international studies. If you enjoy this feeling, you would 100% enjoy Sharjah. I have the same feeling here and it has been so nice to meet so many people from different countries because as you pointed out, 90% of the UAE are foreigners! Hope you have a great semester and thanks for the great post!

  2.    John Hertzog on February 7, 2024 3:02 am

    Thank you for your post, Caroline! I did not realize that 90% of people in the UAE are foreigners. I was wondering why not many people I spoke with from AUS were from the UAE, and this definitely helps to explain that. The map with the many locations that our classes made really reflects this as only one person chose the UAE as their location. Also, what you said about D.C. seems really cool. I’ve only ever been to D.C. as a tourist, but I have noticed how the architecture gives it a unique feel compared to other major American cities. Thank you!

  3.    Piotr Omelańczuk on March 29, 2024 8:09 pm

    The author reflects on their upbringing in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., noting a lack of strong community ties due to factors such as working mothers and frequent relocations, particularly among those involved in international relations or the military. Despite this transience, the neighborhood provides some constants like shared schools, recreational areas, and local religious institutions. However, the closure of nature trails for rail system construction underscores the changing landscape.

    In contrast, Washington, D.C., holds a special place in the author’s heart as a constant and favorite city. Its global ambiance, accentuated by foreign embassies and diverse architecture, contributes to its allure. The city’s European vibe, with its older buildings and multicultural population, fosters a fascination with other cultures and people. Access to a variety of international cuisines in nearby cities further enriches the author’s exposure to global diversity.

    Overall, the juxtaposition of transient suburban life and the cosmopolitan environment of Washington, D.C., shapes the author’s perspective, instilling a curiosity about the world and appreciation for cultural differences.

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