Welcome! My name is Zoe LaBow, and I am a mere 18 years old. I am so excited for the next four years, the opportunities that will arise, and my plans to travel the world. During this class, I hope to expand my knowledge and be able to understand other cultures, religions, and regions in our world. I am also so happy to have been placed in Dr. Webb’s course of International Relations. From my understanding, the other classes do not get the pleasure to work along with other students from The University of Sharjah. To start, we met together on the 5th of September to introduce ourselves and to get to know one another a little. When it comes to the countries we reside in, The United States and The United Arab Emirates have many parallels.

A little about me: I rowed for a club crew team in my area. I love to take pictures, spend time with my family and the people I love, and listen to tons of different music. I am going to be an environmental science major, and was vegan for over three years, until I came to college and realized that’s not so easy on a campus. I grew up in Rutherford NJ “The NJ Borough of Trees. ” Every house has a tree right in front of it, and you’d think it had some forest areas or undisturbed land. But no, it was a very suburban town, with a neighbor to your left 20 feet away, to your right 20 feet away, right behind you, and across the skinny one-way street. Some might enjoy this type of living; it’s just not right for me. When it came to rowing in the armpit river of the east, I was always surrounded by trash and debris. Something about being able to truly see how filthy people can be, all in one trash river, makes you dislike a place a bit. In the six years I was rowing there, we had to evacuate the river three times, because a body was found within. There was maybe another 3-4 while I wasn’t at practice. 

Being 8 miles outside of NYC, Rutherford NJ being home to Metlife stadium, and the Dream Mall of America,  there were always traffic jams, accidents, and the stereotypical “Jersey Driver”. It was hard to get anywhere. The beach was 30 minutes away, but with traffic, an hour and a half. The city? 20 minutes away, but it takes over an hour, sometimes two.

Even more specific to my town, everyone around me was white, polish, and catholic. I am white, however I come from a Jewish family. There was no hiding the fact that I was Jewish, and I got a lot of hate for it growing up, being one of three Jews in my whole school. I was given a barcode nickname, similar to one you might find on a victim of the Concentration Camps from the Holocaust. 

Obviously I wasn’t having a great time, so I left highschool a year early, and got to go to school in Upstate New York. Woods everywhere, mountains, rivers, cold winters, and it was just the scenery change I needed. It was hard to see my future out of this town, and now that I’m out, I can’t even imagine where and what path I am going to take in my life, but I know it’s going to be full of adventure, new things, and pretty sights. 

Now, on to some of your lives. I am no expert, but after talking to a few of you, and doing a little research, I have come to understand a few things. We both come from a fairly diverse area, and our countries are full of different cultures, religions, and places. What those different cultures are, can vary between our countries, but is diverse nonetheless. 

As I said before, I can access a city, a beach, a mountain, and a lake by driving a few hours. From what I heard, in the UAE, you can get to a beach 10 minutes away, the city another 15, and some mountains maybe 30 minutes away. The UAE is significantly smaller than the US. The United States is around 118 times bigger, to be exact. 

The United States has a democratic government, while the UAE is more of an absolute monarchy, with each emirate ruled by a different royal family. Off topic, but something I found very cool and is probably known by everyone but me, is a fact that I came across while researching the United Arab Emirates. The tallest building in the world is located in Dubai, called the Burj Khalifa. At 2,717 feet, it is twice the height of the Empire State Building

When it comes to some geographical differences, it can be much warmer in the UAE than in the US. On the other hand, during the colder months, the United States can dip down to 6º C, compared to 24º. Along with that, “On a per-capita basis, the UAE’s energy, water and carbon footprints are amongst the highest in the world as the hot and dry climate requires a high amount of energy and import of many goods that cannot be produced in the country” (link). However, the UAE is not an unsustainable place, in fact, it contains three of the “ largest and lowest-cost solar plants in the world.” (link

It’s hard to know what it’s truly like to live somewhere else, if you have not been there, or had a full rundown of someone’s experiences. I wish I could paint a better picture of our differences, but with what time we were given to talk, and what I could find, I hope I was able to capture a few differences. I can’t make assumptions and believe everything that I read, so sticking with more contextual facts felt right. I want to hear from some of you guys! Please respond down below with some fun little snippets of your lives, and how you perceive my life vs yours! 

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  1. Thank you for your post. It’s really unfortunate that you had to experience discrimination at your school just because of your religion.

    I noticed that you discussed the differences in temperature between the US and UAE. I do agree that the weather in the UAE tends to be warmer and the US has a much colder weather during winter. With that said, I visited the US twice before. I went to Miami during one summer, and the weather didn’t feel that different from here. It was also very hot and humid, so I think there is some similarity between the two countries.

    On another note, you mentioned that you were struggling to see your future outside of Upstate New York. How are you dealing with the transition of leaving the town for university?

    • And thank you Emmy for your reply! The temperature and humidities definitely vary through different states!

      I am enjoying the transition! I love it here, and now that I’ve lived in NJ, NY, and now PA, I can finally see myself moving around even more. Dickinson has such a cute town with lots of life and activity.

  2. Hi I am not really a nature person, but that detail about the trees was such a nice addition to your writing. Also, I am sorry about your experience at your other school. If you ever want a friendly face to go to shabbat with I am totally down for that. Although I am not really that religious so I would be going for the food and the company, hahaha!

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