DUBAI // Emirati students are being taken on overseas trips to help prepare them for working in the emirate’s increasingly multicultural environment.
The travel club was launched by the women’s campus of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai for its business students.
The trips, the first of which were to Turkey and Japan in December, aim to make the students more culturally aware.
All students at the college already take a liberal studies course in intercultural intelligence, in which they explore aspects of their own culture and learn about others.
The college also often hosts international students. It now wants its students to travel and experience other cultures first hand.
During college breaks, they will visit sites of historical and cultural interest and look at issues such as environmental protection.
They will also meet international students to share cultural insights and act as ambassadors of the UAE.
Before each trip, students read up on their destination and are encouraged to learn basic phrases in the local language.
At least 70 students will travel to Italy, Spain and Japan in April.
“International travel is highly beneficial in developing global awareness, improving cultural sensitivity and creating professional networks,” said Dr Monica Gallant, chair of the business department.
She believes the trips provide “valuable skills for our graduates to succeed as the future leaders of the dynamic workplace of Dubai”.
Maitha Khalifa, 20, who is in her first year and went on the Japan trip in December – the first time she has travelled without her family – noticed many differences between her own culture and that of Japan.
“They are very organised people,” she said. “They’ve very busy, too. On the metro, everyone was reading but us – we just [use] our phones or play games.”
Hind Thaloob, 23, who is in her final year, went on the seven-day trip to Turkey, having previously visited Spain on a college trip in 2011.
“It was so great to see the history of Turkey for ourselves, the Ottoman Empire. You can see it there still,” she said.
Her group visited several mosques, which she said helped to consolidate what they had learnt about the country’s history at school. “It’s very important to see some of the Muslim heritage,” she added.
Pushpa Sadhwani, a business teacher who chaperoned the Turkey trip, said many of the students saw snow for the first time and, more importantly, learnt to cooperate.
“We assigned two different student leaders for each day,” she said. “It was their responsibility to wake everyone up, ensure all students were at breakfast on time, conduct a head count whenever we were out sightseeing and report to the chaperones in case of any issues.
“This was actually a unique bonding experience for everyone in the group. They got to know each other better and built new friendships.”
The group also met students from Ozyegin University in Istanbul, and compared the cultures and traditions of their respective Muslim nations.
“Our college strongly encourages HCT students to be interculturally literate,” Ms Sadhwani said. “The travel club is just one of our many initiatives to promote and facilitate the education of world cultures.”