Studying abroad at the American University of Sharjah has taught me a lot about what it means to be alive as myself. It has expanded my consciousness in ways that I never thought possible. I know a few more Arabic words than I did when I left the US. I've learned that human beings are mostly good. I've learned that friends come and go, but true love lasts forever.
During my time abroad, 150 AED was stolen from me. I was so upset because it was during a time when I was struggling financially. I continued to think, “why me?” for several days. Soon after this, I found a woman’s handbag in the middle of the road. All of her personal and important belongings were in it, and had I not stumbled upon it and turned it in, someone could have stolen from her the same way that someone stole from me.
Karma knocked on my door when Sheikh Mansoor, my political science professor, invited myself, Danielle and Simone to his estate in Ali-Ain. At the beginning of my semester abroad at American University of Sharjah, I made a life changing decision and enrolled in Sheikh Mansoor Bin Tahnoon Al Nehayan’s political science course. I have to say; it was one of the best decisions of my life, as I have learned so much just from sitting with him for 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. I asked him if he would be willing to sit down for dinner. Little did I know that I was in for a big surprise. After being picked up by his driver, we arrived at his estate in Al-Ain. We waited in his masjlis as Sheikh Mansoor and his sons arrived by helicopter.
My favorite part about the experience was lunch. We ate with our hands (I intend to incorporate this into my daily life), and it felt so natural and refreshing. Not to mention, the traditional Emirati meal was phenomenal. After a hefty meal, we enjoyed cake and then headed out in the truck to tour the farm. The first thing I noticed was how happy the animals were. They were treated very well and actively responded to engaging with us, especially the camels! It was easy to notice how intentional Sheikh Mansoor is about tending to and caring for his family and his land. We were blown away when we returned from touring the farm, and Sheikh Mansoor asked us if we wanted to fly in the helicopter! It was such a thrill! I have never been in a helicopter before, nor has anyone been able to change my life in such a short amount of time.
Before we concluded our time with Sheikh Mansoor, his sons drove us around the open land in 4x4s to see the wild animals! Just when we thought our tip to Al-Ain couldn’t get any better, Sheikh Mansoor said that he wanted us to go to the mall with his driver and pick out any gifts that we wanted! We cried. We couldn’t believe the hospitality and generosity. I bought a Michael Kors watch and DSLR Canon Camera. I cherish both gifts, and am so happy that I will be able to document my time abroad via my new camera. Besides getting spoiled, I am blessed to have Sheikh Mansoor be part of my study abroad experience. He is an incredible and intelligent human being and I thank God for making him part of my journey.