“Preparing to Study Abroad at AUD” by Colbee Cunningham

My name Colbee Cunningham, a senior at Simpson College studying International Relations, Multimedia Journalism, and Spanish.

Sep 06, 2022

My name Colbee Cunningham, a senior at Simpson College studying International Relations, Multimedia Journalism, and Spanish. As an Iowa native, my passion lies at the intersection of public diplomacy and international education. During my undergraduate studies, I previously spent a semester in Spain, completed a traineeship with the U.S. Department of State, and completed four internationally-oriented internships. I speak both Spanish and Italian, and I hope to expand my linguistic skill set by exploring multilingual and culturally diverse Dubai, U.A.E.


If you would have told me one year ago that I would be spending the fall 2022 semester studying abroad in Dubai, I never would have believed you. Although I had always aspired to explore the Arab world, financial and logistical constraints made my dreams seem impossible. However, all of that changed when I received the Clinton Scholarship at the American University in Dubai (AUD).

As I count down the days until I officially begin my studies at AUD, I am overcome with a mix of emotions. I feel excited for what will undoubtedly be an incredible semester abroad, I feel grateful to have been given this opportunity, and I feel prepared for my fast-approaching journey across the globe. Not a day has gone by that I have not thought about the day when I will depart for Dubai: August 23rd.

The months leading up to my departure have been a whirlwind of excitement and uncertainty. I spent the first part of my summer completing an intensive summer program with the U.S. Department of State. At the time, I knew that I wanted to spend the Fall 2022 semester abroad, but I was unsure of how I was actually going to make this dream happen. As the fall semester drew near and I had yet to form a concrete study abroad plan, I feared that my international education prospects had all but disappeared. Receiving the Clinton Scholarship was a breath of fresh air. It was as if the universe had heard my concerns and had provided me with a study abroad option that was better than anything I could have dreamed up myself.

Colbee at U.S. Department of State

Having been awarded with the Clinton Scholarship in late June, I had to move quickly in order to complete all of the actions necessary to study at AUD. Over the next few weeks, I convinced my home university to allow me to participate in the program, completed all of AUD’s visiting student paperwork, and bought a round-trip ticket to Dubai. Even after doing all of that work, the reality of the situation still felt surreal.

Colbee - Ice Cream ShopUpon completing my internship in D.C., I returned home to rural Iowa to prepare (both mentally and logistically) for my departure to Dubai. Since returning to Iowa, I have been spending time with my loved ones and working at a local ice cream shoppe to make a bit of extra cash. In between attending family dinners and serving sweet treats, I have managed to compile a bucket list of more than 100 things I hope to see, do, and eat during my time in Dubai. Among my most sought-after to-do items are touring Expo City, trying shawarma, and visiting the Burj Khalifa.

Furthermore, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what the next four months at AUD will have in store for me. Who will I meet? What will I learn? Who will I become? Having studied abroad before, I know that moving halfway across the world by yourself is an exhilarating yet cumbersome task. However, the memories I have made, the knowledge I have gained, and, most importantly, the people I have met along the way have changed my life in ways I did not know were possible.

During my time at AUD, I look forward to uncovering these same types of life-changing international experiences. I cannot wait to form friendships with my classmates from across the globe, strengthen my understanding of Middle Eastern culture, and become a more confident, well-rounded person in the process. See you soon, Dubai!

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