x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

American University in Dubai offers the Emirates experience

Expats eager to learn more about the country get the chance to complete a course that will give a unique insight into the Emirates.

UAE traditions, such as the Emirati Al Yolla dance, and the country’s history and culture are the focus of a new university course. Silvia Razgova / The National
UAE traditions, such as the Emirati Al Yolla dance, and the country’s history and culture are the focus of a new university course. Silvia Razgova / The National

DUBAI // A new course at the American University in Dubai (AUD) is aiming to teach residents more about the country in which they have chosen to live.

The Dubai Experience will be a short certificate course with six classes spread over one or two terms.

Open to the public, undergraduate students of the university and exchange students, it will look at areas such as the UAE's history, its rapid growth, its major industries and local culture.

"There is a need for students to have a stronger foundation for understanding the history and culture of the local region," said Gerald Legé, the dean of the school of arts and sciences. "We anticipate that the course will also be quite popular with AUD students who may not be locals, as a way of learning more about the area in which they are spending several years of their life in pursuit of an education."

He said the local community was an "intended audience" of the course, which is due to start in the autumn.

"People rotating to the region as part of an expatriate community would benefit from an opportunity to learn about the area," he said.

The course is a rarity in the country, with only a handful of institutions offering them.

Jane Bristol-Rhys runs the undergraduate degree in Emirati studies at Zayed University, a federal institution for nationals.

It is designed to prepare students for careers in heritage management, museums and tourism, and focuses on areas such as UAE history, archaeology and social and economic trends.

"I don't know why other universities have not developed courses on the Emirates but our position as a national university dictates that we offer courses that are meaningful and valuable to our students," Dr Bristol-Rhys said.

"I welcome AUD's initiative and hope it succeeds. I am confident that many people living in Dubai will take advantage of the opportunity.

"We have people auditing our courses all the time and I have given lectures, seminars and workshops on Emirati history and heritage over the years. All were well received by expatriates eager to learn more about the UAE.

"When I teach the history of the country, I emphasise the archaeological record that is so rich and certainly dispels any notion about there being nothing here until oil."

William Gueraiche, an assistant professor of social science, will teach part of the new course.

"The certificate courses are very popular with professionals," he said. Others, such as Middle Eastern Studies, have already been well received and he expects this more UAE-focused course will also be popular.

"Most of the time you arrive in the UAE with no knowledge about the country or Middle East in general," Mr Gueraiche said.

"You can work many years in the UAE and you don't have the full picture. I'm not pretending I will give the full picture in a semester but at least insights into how it works."

The historian said the country had a "unique" story, with its rapid growth and the tension between modernity, tradition and values.