“Insider Tips for a Semester Abroad” by Dalin Abubaker

Dalin Abubaker is an AUD Knight who partook in the exchange program at Florida International University

Sep 19, 2022

Dalin Abubaker is an AUD Knight who partook in the exchange program at Florida International University (FIU) for the Spring 2022 semester. As an exchange program returnee, she is sharing some insider tips to help fellow AUD Knights to prepare for a semester abroad.

Q: What inspired you to apply for the exchange program and why did you want to spend a semester abroad?

A: What pushed me to apply for the program was trying out new experiences. I wanted to live in a different country independently surrounded by a new environment that is different from what I am used to. I also wanted to expand my knowledge by learning from professors with other backgrounds and perspectives.

Q: How did you choose your exchange program? What are the things needed to be taken into consideration when it comes to spending a semester abroad at a partner university?

A: As an Interior Design student, I did not have many options for AUD partner universities in the exchange program because the major is pretty specific. However, even if there were more, I would have still applied to Florida International University. For me, location was very important and Miami is similar to Dubai in its diversity, weather, and architecture. I also wanted a university that had a bigger campus to get another university experience. As for my major, I had to make sure that the program at the university of choice is accredited so I could transfer my courses back to AUD.

Q: Can you share your exchange program application experience? What was the application process like at AUD and at the host school?

A: To be frank, it was a quite long process with a lot of paperwork along the way. The FIU application deadline was earlier than other universities. There were many forms that needed to be filled out from both the host school and AUD. Coordinating the courses took some effort and patience because I had deadlines from both universities to submit the syllabi and the course choices, and, obtaining the syllabi and getting everything approved would take some time. Nonetheless, all this hard work paid off in the end and it was all worth it.

Q: What was your experience like at the host school? Any stories or memorable moments you can share?

A: The whole experience was amazing. Living in the dorms, sharing a room with friends that were fun, learning in a different way than what I am used to in Dubai, visiting new places, everything was new to me and I really enjoyed it. Some memorable memories would definitely include the university games, or athletic events, that I watched both on and off-campus, and seeing the school spirit and everyone cheering for the team. I also had fun whenever we would take a little trip to the beach every once in a while and relax there. One of highlights was my trip to Orlando during spring break.

Dalin at FIU

Did you experience any cultural shock or cultural differences while abroad?

A: The student life there is definitely not like the one at AUD, but my cultural shock was seeing how diverse it is there which I was not expecting as much. But it was easier because it is similar to Dubai’s cultural diversity. Other than that, nothing really shocked me as we are already exposed to the culture in the US from social media and shows.

Q: How would you describe your academic learning experience at the host university?

A: It was different in the way they approach the material. Not all classes there are lecture-based, as we had discussions, homework, and small quizzes. I liked experiencing a new way of teaching because I got to see what works best for me.

Q: Overall, would you say your exchange experience is positive and has positive impact on your academic performance/personal growth/career path and future planning?

A: I believe it positively helped me in so many ways. There was a lot of personal growth that would have taken me longer if I had not gone through the experience like being more responsible and independent. It also helped me with future goals as I had other plans for after graduating than I do now.

Q: Would you recommend other AUD students to apply for the partnership programs to spend a semester abroad? If so, why?

A: I highly recommend that students go for the exchange program if they are able to. Going through a totally new experience that deviates from the routine that a student normally has in the years spent studying makes the university more exciting and fun. I understand not everyone will have the best experience, it depends on the location, school, and the environment that they are surrounded by.
Luckily, mine was a very positive one. However, no matter how good or bad it is, they will learn from it either way and grow.

Q: Any tips you can share with the future AUD exchange applicants? Especially, in the following four areas:

  1. Exchange program selection.
    • Choose a university that suits you.
    • Check the deadlines and really focus on the courses they have.
  2. Preparing to go abroad
    • Start as early as possible
    • If you are in your early years of university, try to keep some of your general electives if you are considering doing the program as it is easier to match courses with the electives.
    • Do not procrastinate whatsoever, especially because you need to get the visa appointment and flight arrangement in time for the move-in.
  3. Life abroad
    • Take some time from your day to catch up with friends and family back home.
    • Find things that you enjoy doing on campus so you do not feel bored or homesick.
  4. Things I wish I knew
    • Public transport is not always convenient in some areas.
    • Pack light because you will end up getting a lot of things with you while abroad.
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