Sunday, June 12, 2011

And So It Goes..

Well it's my last few hours in the great country of the UAE. I've pretty much had the runaround today but now I'm just laying back and relaxing (pretty bored, though).

I woke up this morning to a phone call that basically said if I ever want to come back in the country, I need to get to public relations and beg them to cancel my visa in the next few hours. Apparently, you're supposed to have this done a few days before you leave, but we've been asking for weeks what to do and never got an answer. So as soon as I hung up, I threw some clothes on and went to find out what to do. Luckily they were really nice about it and told me to come back after 2 and it should be done. They weren't too happy that I asked them to put a rush on it, though.

A few of the other exchange students skipped out without doing it since you have to pay 50 dhm for it in person or 200 to do it remotely. Guess they won't be coming back anytime soon. I figured it would be easier to just do it now than have to worry about it years from now.

I cancelled my bank account and returned my mailbox key; those didn't take more than a few minutes each.

Then I went to try to check out of my dorm early so I could get my dorm deposit back (I'm not leaving till about 8pm tonight, but the cashier will be closed and I'll be stuck having them transfer money into my bank account, and I'm not comfortable giving that information to them). They made sure there was no damage and gave me a form to take to someone in student relations or something. He said it would take 5 days, but I might get lucky.

So I went to student accounts to see what they could do about it. As soon as he pulled up my account he said I had a hold. Fantastic. It was through public relations for something, probably pertaining to my visa. So I went back and they had my passport completed and lifted the hold. Back to student accounts. At first, he said I'd have to have the money transfered. I wasn't too happy. So I batted my eyes and looked really sad and eventually convinced him to put a rush on it so I could get cash today. hehe

He signed it and sent me with the form to.. umm someone in another office. He approved it and sent me to the cashier. Finally they gave me my 1000 dhm deposit back! 15 trips later, AUS finally gave me money!

It's been smooth sailing from there. Got some food, did some laundry, finish packing. I'll be heading to the airport shortly. Unfortunately, I'll be there for a while. A friend is taking me so I don't have to worry about taxis but my flight doesn't leave till 1:45 in the morning.

Here's a math problem for you
start time 1:45
+ 17 hours of flight time
+ 5 hours of layovers
- 8 hours of time zones
What day will I land??
If you can figure it out, let me know; I will be soooo confused when I finally get home!

Anyway, I just wanted to write one more blog before I left!

I'm going to miss everyone so much! But I am happy to see all my 'mericans again! :-)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cheater, Cheater

Dear AUS,

You have a serious cheating problem. Never before have I seen so much cheating as I have witnessed in the past semester. If you're going to continue calling AUS the best school in the UAE and saying how its so difficult, then start being honest students. You have lost all credibility in my mind. 

A Disappointed Observer

It's amazing just how much cheating can go on in such a short amount of time. I've seen personally, with my one 2 eyes and ears, 9 people fail courses because of cheating. That's just seen or heard from the professor directly. Add about a dozen more from second hand sources (yes, this is in only my classes). 

Thermodynamics is a tough course. I haven't met a single person that said it was easy. Last week, we had a final on this program called EES (engineering equation solver) that we've been using scarcely for a while. The final was only worth about 3% of our grade. Because of this final, 8 students will be failing the course. In one of the sections (my section, with only 24 students), somehow several copied the same solution with all the right answers. Those same idiots didn't bother to check if the given information was right.. The first pressure was supposed to be 8000kpa, but instead, 8 people had 800kpa. Makes it pretty easy to spot the cheaters, doesn't it? I was in the professor's office when the TA came in to tell him "we have a serious cheating problem". Those students were immediately reported to the dean.

In this same class, everyday I watch people copy homework solutions directly from the solution's manual or each other, which was also probably copied from the solutions manual. If you look at the entire class's homework, they all look eerily similar. 

I worked my butt off in this class and I'm proud to say I passed with a C (not even a C-, it's official!). I had to drop this class a year ago because I was failing and I knew it would be tough again. I will hold my head up high when someone asks me how I did in thermo this time, because every grade I got, I earned. I didn't copy and I didn't cheat. I worked hard and accepted every low test score. 

Today I witnessed it again. We had our Arabic Heritage final. This one, unlike the 3% on EES, was worth 30%. About 10 minutes into the exam, the professor walks to the back of the room and picks up a pile of papers from a student's desk. The moron had copied all semester's notes onto about 3 pages and was literally copying it onto the exam. He was asked to leave and the professor showed us as proof incase the student tried to appeal it. No more than 2 minutes later, the student comes back in and says something to the professor. I couldn't hear what he said, but the professor replied "if you're trying to graduate, you wouldn't have tried to cheat". Apparently the student was supposed to graduate this semester but will probably not pass now that he'll be getting a zero on the final. Serves him right. He obviously has something to learn before he gets out of college. He also apparently tried the same thing on the midterm but the professor looked away and let him go. Too bad you can't have a cheat sheet for life. 

How did I do on this exam? I probably failed. It wouldn't surprise me. Why? 1. I don't speak arabic and there were several translation questions (as there have been all semester) 2. I have a really hard time with arabic names (they all sound the same to me) 3. Many of the questions came from the presentation last week and I despise the fact that our grade is in the incompetent hands of others (I swear I didn't learn a thing from the presentations) 4. The book is full of arab and Islamic propaganda that can't be backed up or proven. Who wrote the book? Who knows. There is no author. It's a copied book that looks like a compilation of internet articles and brochures. Some of the pages are vertical, others horizontal. Some of the information is copied directly from websites (which is honestly how we learned in class some days).  The professor told us if we want more information to go to these Islamic websites. Hello! Can you smell the evangelism?! And tell me, where is the credibility when a professor pulls up this Islamic website, has us read it aloud all class and discuss the opinions it's "teaching"? Maybe to other Muslims it's totally legit, but if I wanted to be preached to about the "truths of Mohammed", I'd find a mosque. There is plenty of evidence he lived, but not everyone believes in the same religion. This is not a religion class, if it were, we would have been aloud to have discussions about it. The professor refused to acknowledge anyone else's opinion on the topic and simply left it at what the article said. And yes, this was tested on the exams. 

But I don't want to get into the religious argument. The point of this blog is to write about the cheating. So back to that.

Cheating doesn't end with just copying on homework and exams. Another huge problem here is negotiations. Some professors won't even entertain the idea, but other can be convinced to change just about anything. One professor, actually asked us the class before a midterm if we'd rather take it that week or the next. Another professor told us to negotiate amongst ourselves (there were only 8 of us in the class) when we want the midterm and let him know... If you don't have your homework done (or haven't had time to copy it) just ask the professor if you can turn it in before he left the office that day. I've never heard them decline that request. 

Some of the other hand, ironically the non-arab professors (I'm not making any judgement on nationality, just a classification of who doesn't do it) rarely do this. The turkish thermo professor sticks strictly to the course policy. Things are turned in on time, no late assignments, midterms and finals are clearly marked on the syllabus and don't even think about negotiating your grade. Before we could take the final, we all had to agree to not approach him about our final grade. He would let us see our final exam, but we were not aloud to discuss the final letter grade. 

My Spanish music professor wrote to us the Etiquette Rules of Post-Exam Consultation. And I have all the respect in the world for him for it, too. He made it clear that there was to be no "grade-related negotiation, haggling, quibbling, wrangling or arguing", because as he states, it's discriminatory and unprofessional. If two students do work to similar standards all semester, they should receive the same grade. If one of those students goes to the professor and they get their grade raised, where is the justice in that? 

After all is said and done, I have had some really great professors. They are all great, genuine people. Especially my music professor. He's new here also, so he and I could relate in a lot of ways (especially being musicians in a society that really doesn't value music). He worked so hard in making me conformable here and when he sensed that I was having a rough time, approached me and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I have so much gratitude for him. 

AUS really is a great school, don't get me wrong. I just wish the student would work a little harder at keeping up it's good name reputation. It won't take long for it to be known otherwise. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time Flies; Just Remember - You're the Pilot

Time is such an arbitrary idea. Sure, it's defined by finite actions - 1 day = 24 hours, 1 hour = 60 minutes, 1 minute = 60 seconds and so on, but does that really mean anything to us?

When we're excited and can't sleep, time drags on forever. When we're doing something we enjoy, time flies by. What does it even mean to "perceive time"? Is it really the time we are perceiving? Or is it the events or changes in time? This is just a paradox. In the notion of perceiving an event followed by another. Perhaps flowing in a straightforward motion.

So why is it, that if what we are really perceiving are the events, that they are what goes by the fastest? Shouldn't time slow down to allow us the most "time" in the pleasant instances?

What about your memory? What's the earliest memory you can remember? Think of a date in the past. Can you remember exactly what you did that day? But what about your graduation day? Or prom or wedding day? Or other memorable event? I bet a significant day you can remember exactly what the air smelled like when you woke up. There's no logical reason why we can't remember insignificant details of the past. The human brain is more than capable of it. In fact some people can.

What brought this up, you ask? In 5 days I'll be flying home. Back to the good old US of A. 4 1/2 months have flown by. Sure many time I felt like it would never end. But looking at the big picture, I feel like i just got here. Some moments I remember vividly - like my first night. I didn't have a phone, my computer battery was dead, and there was no internet. I was literally cut off from the world and there wasn't a single person I could talk to because there was no one here. I remember every thought that went through my head as I laid in bed crying, wondering if I made the right decision to come.

How do we perceive precedence amongst events? Why do I chose to remember that night over what I did the entire first few weeks? Life is full of these questions and I continue to ask myself how over 4 months have gone by and how I didn't take advantage of every opportunity here. I met so many great people but never actually got close to many of them. I guess part of knowing it's a terminal friendship kind of hinders that. It's a shame, too. With so much spare time and no extracurricular activities, why didn't I spend extra time studying to get A's in all of my classes? Sure I could have; but I decided to do more recreational activities instead. I guess that's just a choice in how we spend the little amount of time we are given. 

I had a great time being here. The low points and emotional agony just made the good times even better. Life would be boring if nothing bad ever happened. Would the weeks before spring break been better if I wasn't in the hospital having emergency surgery? Sure. I wouldn't have missed so much school work, including a midterm and many lectures and I also would have had more time to enjoy my free time. But without being rushed around Sharjah in an ambulance, I'd have one less story to tell. I wouldn't be able to constantly laugh when I think about honey (ask me later, I might just tell you the story) or any of the other things that happened. I swear I could write a novel about those 3 days in the hospital!

Moral of the story: value the time you are given. You only get to live once.

It's been 130 days and I have only 5 left. Time to make them the best 5 days of the semester!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Sorry it has taken so long to post a blog about this past weekend - I haven't had 4 seconds to sit still! Anyway, in case you didn't know, I went to Kuwait for the weekend. Random, right?

We left Thursday afternoon, as soon as we were all done with classes. By we, it was Irfan, Sarah and myself. We flew on AirArabia again (the budget airline, only costed $150 round trip!) from Sharjah International Airport (literally only a hop, skip and a jump away from campus). The flight was only an hour and a half but because of the time difference and arriving a bit early, it only took 15 minutes relative time. Cool, huh? So we got there and took a taxi to the hotel. Instead of having running meters, they have fixed prices for everything, which was different, but not bad. We went to check in but had some problems because someone *cough*Irfan*cough* lost his wallet the day before. Don't worry, he got it back a few days later (with everything inside! Gotta love that about this country) So they had to get some approvals to charge his card without him actually having it, but it gave us a chance to sit down, have some coffee and just relax before we went out.

So everything settled and we got to our rooms. They were pretty nice and had a beautiful view. Too bad the windows were incredibly dirty.

That night we just walked around the street we stayed on. We picked that hotel because of its location. There was a lot of stuff within walking distance and a lot of people out just enjoying the weather.

The next day was our only full day there, so we did the few touristy things there were to do in the country. We started at Kuwait Towers. They are three pointy towers with a big ball on the end. One is a restaurant  another is an observation deck and we're not sure what the other was. That was pretty cool, it had a really great view. The water looks incredible from up there.

Then we went to Marina Mall. It's apparently a big attraction? All the tour books said to go there. So we walked around there, ate some food, walked around the marina, then headed back to the hotel because it was so dang hot. Irfan's friend, Fatima came to hang out with us later. She picked us up from the hotel and took us to a place called the Chocolate Bar. The name alone makes it sound like my kind of place. The food was excellent and do I even need to describe the desert?? We kind of rolled out of the mall and back into her car. Talk about a sugar crash!

The Chocolate Bar was is The Avenue's mall, another attraction the tour books recommended. Now that we've done everything everyone recommends, we had another half of a day before we had to go back to the airport. So the three of us, Fatima, her two friends, and their visiting friend (so 3 Americans, 1 German, 1 Kuwaiti, and 2 Canadians) had brunch at (yet another) recommended restaurant then went to the Kuwait Aquarium.

They should have called it the zoo and aquarium since the first half was all desert animals. I was quite confused when I didn't see any fish for quite a while. The place was really nice. Saw some really cool animals that you definitely can't find in the states. Luckily this place let you take pictures, unlike the one in Sharjah.

By this time it was just about time to head back to the airport and go back to Sharjah. We said goodbye to our new friends and parted ways.

Kuwait was overall a pretty cool place to visit. Definitely not something I could do for longer than a weekend, though. Not much to do there and it doesn't flaunt their money. Yes, they have tons of it. But you wouldn't know it based on what Kuwait City looks like. There aren't flashy cars, or huge unnecessary high rise buildings. It had a nice feel to it though. Another safe gulf country with lots of oil money.

That was pretty uneventful till we got on the plane. I was rummaging around the gift shops since I didn't buy anything that says Kuwait when they made the first call for our flight. Sarah went ahead and got on while Irfan waited for me. By the time we got on, there were people sitting in the wrong seats all over the place. Sarah was sitting in our row with two random women. They finally moved and we got our seats when all of a sudden there is yelling coming from two or 3 rows behind us. There was a Khaliji woman sitting in an Indian woman's seat. As soon as I saw that, I knew it was going to be bad. The Khaliji woman was with either one or two others, but since they were behind me and not saying much, I couldn't really tell. The Indian woman was there with her two small children. The seats belonged to the Indian family, but the flight attendant tried to separate the three of them just so the plane could take off. The women was yelling that she had paid for those seats and was not going to be separated from her children (she had every right to be upset). The arab woman kept refusing to move and couldn't understand why the family couldn't just go somewhere else. It started to escalade. The Indian woman was yelling about her lack of intelligence and asked how she's so stupid that she can't even read her ticket and even went so far as to say "you might have money, but I have brains!"Finally the flight attendants convinced the Arabs to move to their right seats and the Indian family took their appropriate seats. That wasn't the end of it, though. Throughout the whole flight people were yelling in Arabic. I couldn't understand most of it, but I'm assuming most was directed towards her (not that she could understand it either). I was so happy when we landed, I just wanted the yelling to stop!

As much as I hate to say it, that whole fiasco pretty much sums up the attitude between ethnicities. It's kind of sad, but it's what I've observed over the past four months.

Now its time for our last week of classes! Alhumdulah! Next week is finals, then a few days later, I'm coming home!

Khalas! That's all for now!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gone but not forgotten! <\3

It's never a good feeling when you lose someone or something very close to you. It's that sinking feeling knowing they won't be there the next time you need them. I lost the one that was always by my side, no matter what I did or where I went. That one that always held my hand when I was in trouble. The one that always gave me an answer when I had none.

I never gave her enough credit. Like I used her over and over again. She never complained. If I could go back now, I wouldn't take her for granted; she gave me so much that I couldn't get by myself. She was intelligent beyond all belief!

That feeling is gone forever now. That security is something I will never feel again. Can it be replaced? Maybe. Maybe in time. I don't know how much time, however. No one really does. I'll be ok, I have friends around me to keep me together; shoulders to cry on, hands to hold.

She wasn't just my calculator - she was my lifeline! She was always there for me! Always right there by my side, willing to lend me a hand when I was stuck. She traveled the world with me! And what did I do? I walked out on her! I never even said good-bye :'( I'm so sorry! They came in in such a rush and I my mind was occupied; I can't believe what I've done!

You always gave it you'r all. You were there for me in the hard times; especially exams. When I didn't know, you always did. You're always sure to make me smile. Like when someone tells me the temperature in Celsius and I don't know if it's hot or cold, you assured that I'd be dressed appropriately. You were so smart, had so much potential. I never gave you a question you couldn't answer. Sure you had a few syntax errors, but they were always my fault! And I forgive you for that one exam when I was solving for angles and you were in degrees when I needed radians. Everyone makes mistakes. But you got right back on your game!

You might be gone, but I will never forget you! <3

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thermo, O Thermo

Thermo O Thermo, O how I loath thee,
Thermo O Thermo, why must you torture me?
I feared you at first, with little to excite,
I'm late everyday, try as I might.
Your tests did I fail, but study did I do,
Homework was simple, but not exams too.
Time had gone by and pass I would not,
To drop the class was what I sought.
A year had gone by, a second chance had appeared,
The professor is different, but content is mirrored.
Classes are bigger and much more involved,
Homework's the same, it hasn't evolved.
Thermo O Thermo, I am trying my best,
Thermo O Thermo, please help with the rest.
I do all the homework, copy do I not,
Understand the material, or so I thought.
It's down to a final, the last grade I will get,
Well I will do, for grades are not set.
My highest grade yet, is soon to come,
Thermo just wait, for I am not done.
Thrice in this class, I just will not do,
Thermo just wait, I am coming for you!

-Yours Truely

Monday, May 9, 2011

You Know You're From Dubai When...

Everyone knows each other.

You love Zaatar W Zeit.

You have never ridden a public bus.

You laugh at how small malls in America or Europe are compared to Dubai.

Taxi drivers play really loud Indian music and won't turn it off.

Ferraris and Lamborghinis are a totally normal sight.

You know some phrases in Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu, and/or Arabic.

You have a maid/know some people with maids.

Your dentist's office is in some villa in Jumeirah.

You've smoked shisha.

You've eaten in the bathroom at the mall during Ramadan.

A thunderstorm makes front page news.

You've gotten lost in Madinat Jumeirah.

You have Mall of the Emirates memorized and have Dubai Mall almost memorized.

You can get cheap Indian food anywhere.

You don't know how to pump gas.

80 degrees Fahrenheit is cool.

70 degrees Fahrenheit is chilly.

You spend Halloween night at the Lakes/Meadows/Springs.

People who aren't from Dubai always ask if you've been in the Burj Al Arab.

You get groceries from Spinney's and Choithram's.

Shawarmas are fast food.

You can't imagine life without A/C.

Everyone has more than one cell phone.

In McDonald's, a hamburger is called a beefburger.

Your house doesn't have carpet floors.

McDonald's has McArabias.

When you get days off when it rains [rain days].

When it rains, everyone runs outside.

You have accidentally said "close" or "open" the light.

A Lamborghini speeds by your car and you don't even blink.

You've crossed really big roads, 4 lanes and above!

When you go overseas, you get kind of scared of thunderstorms since you rarely see them in Dubai.

When you have a few extra days off, you go to Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, or Muscat.

You find American news/American CNN to be highly idiotic---you watch CNN International/BBC News/Al Jazeera instead.

You watch MTV Arabia.

One word: SHAWARMAS.

You love the fact that most places are open 7 days a week.

You love that the malls close really late.

People get excited when it's really cloudy.

When it rains, newspapers always do a 2-page spread showing people walking in the rain.

People overseas are always asking about the beaches.

If you don't speak Arabic, the only words you know are "yallah!" "habibi" and "khalas!"

You call all your friends habibi/habibti, even if you don't speak Arabic.

You have developed a high heat tolerance.

You can never see the stars in the sky, so when you go overseas and see them, you are always fascinated.

IF YOU GO TO DAA (i dont know about other schools) - you can see the burj al arab and jumeirah beach hotel from some of your classes :)

When you go overseas, you are surprised and slightly annoyed at how slow everyone drives.

When you know that even if a you see a school's name followed by the word "college", it's not actually a college.

You attempt to fast during Ramadan.

You are never surprised to see the police speeding by in a Mercedes, BMW, or even a Hummer.

Your school parking lot is like an exotic cars showcase.

When you're WAY cooler than everyone who doesn't live/hasn't lived in Dubai.