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Published: January 25, 2024

Class Requirement Leads Students to the UAE

A recent 10-day trip to the United Arab Emirates turned a class of 17 UT students into a group of friends who felt like family as they sandboarded and watched the sunset in the desert.

The students’ favorite part of the 10-day trip was spending the day in the desert, riding camels. Photo courtesy of Andrew Brooks '27

Finance major Andrew Brooks ’27 and allied health major Lily Gabler ’26 agreed the time in the desert, saved for the final day, was the highlight of BUS 101, Introduction to Global Business.

The trip was led by Kathryn Weaver, assistant teaching professor of international business and economics lecturer Suzanne Dieringer.

For both Brooks and Gabler, the class fulfilled a requirement, but the opportunity to travel internationally was what piqued their interest and persuaded them to sign up.

“It was so different from anywhere I’ve ever been,” said Gabler, who had never been to the Middle East, adding it seemed like an interesting place to go, after hearing about the course at UT’s study abroad fair.

Brooks had wanted to go abroad, but not for an entire semester, and a month before the trip, he realized he needed the business course credit, and a spot in the class opened up.

“I always wanted to go to Dubai. It was at the top of my bucket list,” he said.

The group enjoyed many cultural dinners together. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Weaver

The group enjoyed many cultural dinners together, one night having dinner in front of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. 

At the dinner, they were joined by professors who taught in Dubai, including a former UT professor. Students learned about the United Arab Emirates and how companies, including a contracting company and a banking company, operated there. 

One thing that stuck out to Gabler was the importance of sustainability to these companies. The contracting company, for instance, used old roads to construct new roads.

Another favorite for Gabler was visiting the markets in Old Dubai, where bargaining with vendors is customary. Inside there’s a global village, where many countries are represented. She bought a fur coat from Pakistan and skin care products from Africa.

The students also visited the Dubai Mall, the President’s Palace in Abu Dhabi, the Atlantis of Dubai and the Dubai Frame, which separates Old and New Dubai. On the last day, they rode dune buggies and camels in the desert and tried sandboarding. At dinner, just as the sun was setting, they were entertained by dancers. 

“We only had one day to do it,” Gabler said, of visiting the desert. “It was beautiful and really cool.” 

While at dinner another evening, Gabler, who wants to attend physician assistant school after graduation, spoke with one of the professors, learning about medical advancements in Dubai and further solidifying her future plans.

After the day in the desert, students enjoyed another cultural dinner. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Weaver

As a result of the trip and talking with the professors, Brooks decided to change his major to focus on finance. He hopes to be in hospitality management for hotels.

Being a hands-on person, Brooks said the course was “better than paper,” because he got the real-world experience of observing business operations and got to compare it to that of businesses in the United States.

The course would be appealing to students who might not typically gravitate toward the subject, Gabler said. “I’m not a businessperson; I know nothing about business,” she said.

“Traveling is the best form of education,” she added.

The instructors agreed. “It was a joy to see the excitement and awe in their eyes, and we truly enjoyed having meaningful small group conversations with them,” said Weaver. 

The students, they said, started a trip across the world with strangers, and now will have friends for a lifetime.

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