MSU PLS senior Jayla Irons shares her experience during an overseas study program in Dubai

February 22, 2022

Jayla studied with the Globalization of Consumerism and Community in Dubai program during the winter of 2021. She recently shared her experience with the Office of Education Abroad. Here is her story:

Jayla IronsThis study abroad furthered my academic pursuits because it touched on an area of political science that I am interested in which is international relations. I minor in French Language and Culture because I hope to do something in international studies at some point in life. World Politics and cultural studies is an area that I wish to delve into after graduation, and this program gave me an experience in this realm and could possibly open doors to future career endeavors.  Furthermore, this abroad program served to fulfill my experimental learning requirement.

Personally, I was affected by this study abroad in a positive manner. This was the first time I was in a region that was not Western and had major cultural differences that I had to adjust to. For instance, I had never been to a country where I had to be particularly aware of what I wore and how I interacted with others in public (such as not being loud or causing any public disturbance). Although different, it was interesting to take part in, and once adjusted, it was not as difficult as some people make it out to be. You simply must have an open mind and be tolerant of other cultures.

One thing I learned about Emirati culture was that there is a deeper awareness for smells than in the United States. Almost everywhere we went, there were people selling perfumes, incenses, or oils. For example, after we had dinner at the Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding, we were offered to bask in an incense that would rid us of the smell of food. I enjoyed this aspect of the host culture because I am a person who is fond of perfumes and is often concerned with how I smell.   

People often have a misconception that environment of Dubai is very strict and stifling because it is in the Middle East and monarchial. Although it is much more traditional than America and there are certain customs that are expected to be followed, it is not as conservative as most people think. So long as the culture is respected, you will not be bothered and everyone I met was very understanding of the fact that I was a traveler who will make some blunders.

My experience in this city may differ from others because I am black and a female. For instance, I was often asked about and complimented on my hair and people were curious about what country I came from. I indeed had some experiences with others that made me uncomfortable, but most were out of ignorance and not malice. I was reminded that many people do not have much experience with African Americans and often have no intention of being rude, they are just uneducated. While it is important to correct others when they are wrong to you, especially on socioeconomic bases, it is also equally as important to recognize that people will make mistakes because they are human.