Abu Dhabi

14 Struggles You Experience As A New Abu Dhabi Expat

"Inshallah" = "Not today, man."

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People move locations every day and experience culture shock, but coming from a small town in Alabama, moving to one of the most rapidly growing cities in the world came with both its joys and hardships. One of the ways my family and I coped with the newness of Middle Eastern city life was to find the humor in every "unique" situation. To this day, we enjoy sitting around and laughing together about all the wonderful mishaps and wrong turns we took during our transition period.

1. You thought you might crash and die your first time on Sheikh Zayed Bridge 

Really, a fear factor is involved in most Abu Dhabi driving situations. You can make your own lane, stop signs are just suggestions, and you better not sit at a traffic light for more than 0.4 seconds or you'll get the honk of shame.

2. The person sitting beside you in class could be from Lebanon or Michigan, and sometimes, it's hard to tell 

Because Abu Dhabi is such a vast melting pot of races and ethnicities, definitive cultural lines are often blurry which is a great thing until the 15 year-old boy with the dark skin, full beard, and SWEDISH accent throws you off mid-conversation.

3. You didn't know serious soccer was until someone nearly smacked you for not knowing who Omar Abdulrahman is 

Jerseys, jerseys everywhere. I don't know the last thing about sports, but these people don't play when it comes to soccer, both recreationally and professionally. It's a passion you've got to admire.

4. Having a bidet in your bathroom really freaked you out for the first couple of weeks 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, just Google it. You'll understand.

5. The sights and sounds of the city can be overwhelming at first 

Huge buildings + bright lights + many different languages being spoken at the same time + crazy traffic = the occasional meltdown

6. Navigating your first concert there was like being in a loud, colorful sauna with 5,000 of your friends 

So many cool people in one place! So......many.....people!

7. "Giving directions" really means "naming every landmark from point A to point B" 

This is how directions are communicated to everyone, including taxi drivers, friends, strangers, and emergency services. This is partly because a lot of Western expats can't pronounce the street names anyway.

8. People back home told you to watch out for all the "weapons" you might encounter 

With the way adults (who had never been to Abu Dhabi) talked to me about Abu Dhabi, I thought bazookas were going to be a much bigger problem than they were. Many people, but especially Americans, hear "Middle East" and get very anxious. But Abu Dhabi is actually one of the safest cities in the world! I could take a taxi alone at 1AM across town and not feel the least bit anxious about it!

9. You almost needed an intervention for your shawarma addiction 

It didn't help that there was a shawarma place within walking distance of everywhere.

10. The Call to Prayer scared you half to death the first time you heard it over a loudspeaker in a public setting 

"Is this the rapture? Is this a pop song? Should I follow all these people?"

11. When people hear you're moving to Abu Dhabi, they assume you're ridiculously wealthy  

Most expats don't have the gold toilets, sports cars and huge parties that people imagine when they think of Abu Dhabi or Dubai. We do come in contact with those things though, and it's hard not to feel totally out of place when it happens. But, at the end of the day, what you have or what you don't isn't what's important; it's enjoying the culturally diverse experience.

12. 110 degrees is too hot to do anything 

This is especially true if you have thick or curly hair. You're basically walking around with a wool blanket on your head, and it's not comfortable. This is when all those summer scarves you bought at the souk come in handy. While it may seem counterintuitive, multiple thin layers can actually help protect your skin from intense sun exposure which is important if you burn easily.

13. You quickly learn that "Inshallah" means "it probably won't happen, but if it does, it won't be any time soon. 

"Inshallah" is an Arabic phrase meaning "God willing", but many people use it as a "maybe, maybe not" response to plans. Abu Dhabi runs on its own schedule, and all well-educated residents know that nothing almost nothing will happen on time.

14. You couldn't shake the feeling of being in a movie for at least the first few months 

"How would Vin Diesel react in this situation?"

I hope this encourages anyone about to embark on a new journey. Don't worry, even if things don't go as planned, it will still enhance your world view and you can laugh about it later.

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Saying Goodbye To Freshman Year

"High School goes by fast, but college goes by even faster."
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“High School goes by fast, but college goes by even faster”, we’ve all heard it and probably all ignored it as well. I mean time is time. It moves at the same pace no matter what you’re doing right?

Nope.

High School is over, I’m now a freshman in college and it’s April. I’m sitting here in my dorm looking at all my clothes, and bins thinking, how in the hell will this all fit in my car again? It is crazy, I need to be thinking about all of this now because there is one month of my freshman year left, just one.

All I can keep thinking is how? Wasn’t it just last week that I moved into my cozy room at the end of the hall, or just yesterday that I ran home to two hundred beautiful new sisters? As much as it seems like yesterday, it wasn’t.

It was almost eight months ago that I stepped onto this campus as a freshman, now it is my last four weeks and they are jam-packed. From formal to finals I am in the home stretch of my first year of college. I just registered for my classes next semester, and can’t get it through my head that I will soon be a sophomore.

While walking around campus I still catch myself thinking, wow I am really here. I am a college student, at a school, I fall more in love with every day. So, how can I be a sophomore now when I feel like I just got here?

Yes, I still have three amazing years of college ahead of me, and I can’t wait to see what those years have in store in for me. But, I just can’t help but feel a little sad that I won’t be a freshman anymore. I won’t be the youngest in my sorority family, I won’t be coming back to a dorm every night.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am stoked to live in an apartment next year with my absolute best friends. And you definitely could have heard me saying “I am so over this whole dorm thing” once or twice this semester, but now I can’t help but see all the things I’ll miss.

Freshman year is just unique. You get this giant clean slate, a fresh start. And it is just waiting to see what you’ll do with it. It truly is a year of firsts. My first failure, the first time being on my own, my first time not knowing anyone in my classes. Yes, that can all be a lot to take on, I was terrified at the start of the school year. But before I knew it, I had a routine, I had friends, I had a life here.

And this life surpassed all my expectations. I have a home away from home. I have friends that I know will be my bridesmaids some day. I have experiences that I’ll never forget.

Now as I head back home for the summer I couldn’t be more excited to be with my friends there and my family. But, I also couldn’t be sadder to leave my friends here, even if it’s only for three months because they’ve become another kind of family.

Despite leaving freshman year behind, we have so many more memories to make whether it’s doing the Seminole chop in Doak, coordinating our Halloween costumes, or just chilling at the house. We’ve all come so far this year, and I can’t wait to see just how far we go. So bring it on Sophomore year, I’m ready for ya.

Cover Image Credit: Cameron Kira

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The 7 Best Pieces Of Advice I Have Been Given About Life

Some of the best advice I have been given over the years...

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There isn't a central theme among these pieces of advice or sayings. They are all just random things I have been told over the course of my life–especially in the last week. I find these 7 to be particularly helpful in various situations, and try to keep them in mind when I am in over my head.

1. "Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself because there is nobody who is going to help you more than you."

You are the #1 person who can help your own case. No one knows you as you do, therefore no one will be able to help you more than you can help yourself. A lot of things are mental, so once you can convince yourself that you deserve something (whatever it may be) you can convince anyone. Another saying goes along with this, on the flip side: "No one can diminish you but yourself." You are in control of your own self-perception, and you are very much capable of being your own worst enemy.

2. "Stand behind your reputation because you can never get it back."

My mom sent this to me the other day. Be who you are, and do it proudly. Especially with meeting people for the first time, you can never have a second chance at a first impression. That being said, if people view you in a bad light, figure out why that is and fix it. You may not be able to change someones initial thoughts of you, but you can change the way they view you after that.

3. "The best things in life happen unexpectedly."

"Life is what happens when you're busy making plans," also goes along with this. Trying to plan out every little detail of your life is only going to lead to disappointment. Sometimes you find the best things/what you're looking for when you're not actually looking. Just go through the motions and things will work out the way they are supposed to.

4. "Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small."

It's important to celebrate the little things. Did you go to class today? Good for you. Did you decide to drink water instead of a soda? That's awesome. How are you going to work up to doing bigger and better things if you don't have anywhere to start?

5. "Whatever you're stressing about now probably won't matter in five years."

As someone who is often eaten away by their own worry and anxiety, this is a mantra that I try to constantly remind myself. While it may seem like a big deal now, you need to keep in mind the bigger picture. Will it matter in 5 hours? 5 days? 5 months? And so on. If the answer is no to ANY of these questions, it's probably not worth beating yourself up over.

6. "Stop being the 'go to' person for someone you can't go to."

Someone tweeted that their pastor said this to them and the tweet went viral. A friend of mine sent it to me, and it really made me think. Something I have struggled with over the years is making excuses for people who don't show up for me when I am constantly there for them. This is a helpful reminder that if they aren't contributing to you and your life, you shouldn't have to bend over backward to help them out and be in their lives.

7. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

While this is often a saying that parents use on their young children, it is applicable to pretty much any stage of life. My parents, especially my dad, have constantly said this, whether it was in reference to fighting with my siblings or dealing with people at school. Even as a 20-year-old, I find myself saying this when I hear about arguments and problems people are having. Everyone wants to get even, to best those who hurt them. While it's important to stick up for yourself, it is also important to be the bigger person and not stoop to their level (and whatever else your parents told you in these situations).

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