Summer in Dubai

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Carson Kahoe, COL ’19

My internship in Dubai with Alserkal Avenue offered me an improbably perfect combination of my two great interests in college. As an arts and culture organization dedicated to creating a hub for artists from all across the region, the Avenue catered both to my major in Modern Middle Eastern Studies and my minor in Fine Arts. What’s more, living in Dubai offered me an opportunity to immerse myself in the Gulf region, practice my Farsi with the many Iranians living in Dubai, and gain an appreciation for its culture firsthand by living in it every day. Sadly, since Dubai is known for its luxury hotels and flashy skyline, I feared that the cost would keep me from experiencing the city on the level I hoped I could. However, the funding from Career Services freed me from worrying about cab and dinner fares and let me focus more on exploration and experience.

Exploring Dubai’s neighborhoods almost every weekend, I gained an appreciation for the city on foot. I would pick a destination and wander from there. Though the heat proved prohibitive during the day—120 degrees and nearly 100% humidity—I connected most with the city on the nights by taking the metro to a neighborhood, walking to a nearby restaurant I wanted to visit, and then wandering the nearby stores. Using that method, I had conversations with shopkeepers, bought a book from the owner of a neat secondhand bookstore, and befriended a barber while watching a Philippino bodybuilding show. I also visited Dubai’s neighboring emirate to the north, Sharjah, to visit the Sharjah Art Foundation, explore the city, and spend the evening on the beach.

Having the freedom to travel also allowed me to take full advantage of the city’s linguistic opportunities. Given the United Arab Emirate’s proximity to Iran, Dubai has a large Iranian community. On weekends, I would sometimes travel to the city’s bazaar neighborhood in the north and speak Farsi with the Iranian saffron store owners. On the recommendation of my landlady, I also met one Iranian woman for lunch and quickly became her friend. I had the privilege of seeing her several times while I was in Dubai and meeting her family. As a parting gift, she gave me a book of letters from the modern giant of Persian poetry, Forough Farrokhzad.

That freedom allowed me to take advantage of the region as a whole as well. To renew my visa, I had to exit and reenter the country, so I took the opportunity to catch the cheapest flight out of Dubai and spend a weekend in another country. As a result, I spent the holiday weekend at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in Muscat, the capital of Oman, where I met people on the beaches and enjoyed the atmosphere as families all around me cooked holiday dinners. Ultimately, as someone who studies the Gulf region and hopes to use an understanding of it in a future career in diplomacy or academia, the opportunity to experience my time in Dubai fully was priceless. Getting over my fear of cab fares got me out of my room and allowed me to see beyond Dubai’s shiny towers and get to know it on a deeper, more personal level.


Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.