x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Female students take the high road to cultural learning

Batch of students prepare for summer school and cultural exchange at Al Maktoum College in Dundee.

From left: Hanan Al Rayes, Marwa Al Awadhi and Radhya Mohamed are among the UAE students going to Scotland for the summer.
From left: Hanan Al Rayes, Marwa Al Awadhi and Radhya Mohamed are among the UAE students going to Scotland for the summer.

ABU DHABI // As universities break up for the holiday, dozens of female students will be flying overseas - back to school.

The 55 women will attend a summer school and cultural exchange at Al Maktoum College in Dundee, Scotland, in the 10th year the UAE has sent such a delegation.

The programme began with only one UAE institution, Zayed University, and now has seven including Abu Dhabi University and UAE University, as well as Qatar University.

Hanan Al Rayes, 27, a business student at Abu Dhabi University, is among those preparing to go.

"Many nationalities live in the UAE and it's as important for us to understand their cultures as it is for them to understand ours," Ms Al Rayes said.

Marwa Al Awadhi, 18, who is studying civil engineering, said: "The world is connected now. We can't live without knowledge on multiculturalism. We have to understand other cultures."

The students will take part in debates with students in Scotland, and with nuns and priests in Oxford.

"It's a great way for us to learn about other religions," said Radhya Mohamed, 21, a finance student at Abu Dhabi University.

It will be the first time most of the women have been away from home.

"I'm scared," admitted Ms Al Awadhi. "I'm really excited and I'm sure I'll be OK once I get there, but we will need to be independent for the first time. It is all part of the experience."

So far, 480 young women have been given the Scottish experience.

"It gives the girls the ability to be on their own ," said Mirza Al Sayegh, from the Office of the Dubai Crown Prince, which established the Dundee college. "Many of the girls tell us the trip has totally changed them, transformed their personality."

Eman Kareem, a third-year English literature student at Abu Dhabi University who was in the most recent group, said it helped her confidence.

"In so many ways it changed my life and the way I look at the world," Ms Kareem said. "The debates taught me to think on my toes, to deliver my arguments quickly and effectively."

She recalled one lecture on management across cultures, which gave her a new insight into something very relevant to the UAE.

"It gave me insights into the concept of managing in different socio-economic and cultural contexts," Ms Kareem said.

The women, who will also meet politicians and religious leaders, will receive certification for the academic training in Scotland, but that is just a small bonus.

Dr Larry Wilson, provost of Zayed University, remembers the programme's launch.

"We had very few students interested in the beginning," he said, adding this time his university will send 28 women. "The quality has gone up and the students really see how it enhances their education."

mswan@thenational.ae