First Impressions of Teaching English At University in Abu Dhabi

By Lucia Holliday Buie.

My first day teaching English at a university in Abu Dhabi, UAE was 9/11/11. As an American, this made me nervous, and the day began with a figurative bang. Hailing a taxi to work, I happened to get a Pakistani driver. He told me that on 9/11/01, the Americans did it to themselves.  It was the Jews who did it and the ones working at the WTC made sure to take that day off.  He offered to send me documents proving this.  No thanks, I said. It was amazing to me what the uneducated or non-critical thinkers dream up to confirm their biases.

But soon the cultural divide began to decrease.

From my first two classes at the university, I observed that students have very, very good English, compared to the Turks, which makes my job a lot easier.  I had the students introduce each other, using a set of questions I’d given them.  All of them have traveled to numerous countries.  But when asked to talk about their families, all they would say is, “My father has such and such a job.”  This was strange to me because the Turks loved to talk about their fathers, mothers, and siblings in detail.

The majority come from government schools where they have studied English since age six.  They had Western teachers, so I’m not the great curiosity that I was in Kayseri, Turkey.  And of  course, the government pays for their college education, their textbooks, and gives them a living stipend notched to their GPA.

At lunch, I passed through a great crowd of boys.  It was strange.  They seemed like great lonely trees.  They’re not all intertwined the way Turkish boys would be.  Also, their robes limit their movement, so they can’t give each other the playful kicks to the derriere the Turks liked to exchange.  And, they wear colognes made from oud and frankincense so there’s a very woody, dark concert of smells. Not unpleasant.12291869_10153724184578680_9145159883637272653_o

One of my students posted this to social media. I find them cute, too.

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