Dubai Doesn’t Disappoint for UT Study Abroad Sophomore

Published: Oct 29, 2012
Taylor Kurkechian ’15, of Frankfort, IL, is a government and world affairs major who is earning a certificate in Middle Eastern studies while at the American University in Dubai this semester.
Taylor Kurkechian ’15, of Frankfort, IL, is a government and world affairs major who is earning a certificate in Middle Eastern studies while at the American University in Dubai this semester.
Aside from studying in the classroom, Kurkechian has also bargained with locals in the market, visited the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and went to the only indoor ski resort in the world, Ski Dubai.
Aside from studying in the classroom, Kurkechian has also bargained with locals in the market, visited the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and went to the only indoor ski resort in the world, Ski Dubai.
“Having this study abroad experience allows me to see a different part of the world from the inside, which gives me a greater global perspective,” Kurkechian said.
“Having this study abroad experience allows me to see a different part of the world from the inside, which gives me a greater global perspective,” Kurkechian said.
While sitting under the minarets in a classroom in Plant Hall, Taylor Kurkechian ’15 found a passion for Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. A year later, she found herself studying among the minarets in Dubai as a recipient of the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship.

“Our professor, Youssef Salhi, who was an incredible Arabic instructor, shed light on a ton of cultural aspects of the communities in the Middle East,” said Kurkechian of her Arabic 101 and 102 classes at UT. “The history, society and culture are like nothing I've ever studied.”

Kurkechian, of Frankfort, IL, is a government and world affairs major who is earning a certificate in Middle Eastern studies while at the American University in Dubai this semester. She is one of 10 recipients from the U.S. who received this scholarship, which seeks to further the goals of the Clinton Presidential Foundation, namely to empower students to meet the challenges of global interdependence.

“I was hoping to learn more about Islam, different cultures in the region and practice my Arabic skills,” said Kurkechian, who is enrolled in six courses including History of the Middle East, Islam: Historical and Societal Aspects, and Culture and Economics of the Gulf. “The experience is allowing me to do all of that both in and out of the classroom.”

She said the experience will benefit her when she returns to UT in the spring.

“Having this study abroad experience allows me to see a different part of the world from the inside, which gives me a greater global perspective,” Kurkechian said. “I think understanding how diverse parts of the world function will allow me to better understand my government classes from alternative insights.”

While this is her first study abroad experience, Kurkechian said she’d recommend it to any student.

“Being forced out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself into a foreign environment pushes you to think on your feet and surprises you with the realization that you are doing things you once thought you couldn’t handle,” Kurkechian said. “The experiences, people you meet and places you see truly open your eyes to how vast and diverse the world is. You also appreciate a lot of what you take for granted back home in the U.S., like freedom of speech, hot water and peanut butter.”

Kurkechian wants to continue her language studies and after graduation, work for a branch of the U.S. government such as at an embassy or for the CIA.

Aside from studying in the classroom, Kurkechian has been to the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi where she saw gold vending machines, went to ancient Dubai, called Al Bastakiya, where she visited the Center for Cultural Understanding and was free to discuss misconceptions of Islam. She has also bargained with locals in the market, visited the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and went to the only indoor ski resort in the world, Ski Dubai.

Aside from the blazing temperatures, (“It was 112 degrees when I landed and felt like I was in a furnace,”) the only other challenges Kurkechian has faced have been deciding what to eat for dinner.

“Dubai is so rich in diversity and culture you can walk down a street with at least 12 different cuisines lined up,” she said, and most are on a college student’s budget.

 
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