Highlight 2: Sharjah Lights Festival. Pictures do this event better justice than do words.
|Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Sublime.|
|The cook insisted I take his photograph. I was happy to oblige.|
|This food is to die for.|
|It's cool to have the future happen right in front of you|
But if you study abroad in the Middle East, here's what you will have. You will be able to take an long objective look at the entire Western World – Europe, North America, South America [to a degree], Australia / New Zealand, and arguably even some parts of the Pacific Rim. You will be able to question why you want the things that you want, why you're (likely) achievement-oriented and were encouraged to be throughout your life, and why you see the rest of the world in the way that you do. You'll probably see how media nearly always misrepresents unfamiliar faces and places, and you'll begin to awaken to a realization of the value of human interaction with people dramatically different than yourself. You'll learn how to live differently, instead of simply finding reinforcement in the continuation of the habits and customs that are already natural to you.
The honeymoon period is over for me here, and with it, I've tried to leave behind most of my desire to experience spectacle (a tourist attitude). Instead, I'm now looking to invest my time and energy into people and opportunities that offer a valuable, longer-term payoff. Last week, I attended the student fair and joined 11 clubs, including the American Cultural Club, for which I'm now the unofficial "Officer of Cultural Coordination." I've befriended the entire third floor of the CAAD (architecture, art, and design) building – as a finance student who has no classes there. I've already mentioned the track and field team, of course. And somehow, I'm walking around with a henna tattoo of my name in Armenian on my right forearm. This is AUS; anything is possible.
Throughout it all, I strive to remain thankful for all these opportunities that are coming alive for me. Not every day is uniquely exciting. After all, I'm still a student; I still study. Yet a sense of purposefulness, of manifest destiny, exists here, permeating the very atmosphere and air I breathe. And I am addicted to it.
To borrow from Aristotle in closing: challenges are essential for human flourishing. Here, I embrace each one as it comes.
Yours until the end – Jon