A Second Once in A Life-time Opportunity by Kevin Simon

A Second Once in A Life-time Opportunity

                Going
to Olin has been a once in a life-time opportunity. I'm incredibly grateful,
not only for the awesome classes and classmates, but also for the opportunity
to help build this school into the world-class institution that it deserves to
be known as. Some of the time, awesome things fall into your lap that will
change your life forever. Olin has been this for me, and by that same line of
thought I would have to describe my experience at Khalifa
University of Science and Technology
in Abu Dhabi, UAE as my second once in
a life-time opportunity. It's not every day that you get to be the first
exchange student to a three-year-old engineering school
in a Muslim nation.

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Hanging out at Emirates
Palace, one of the most expensive hotels to construct in the world

                This
all began with a spontaneous conversation between two external guests touring
our campus, my lovely Mat Sci partner, Elizabeth Poindexter ('13) and myself
about our plastic recycling project. The conversation ended with one of them
saying "if you're up for an adventure, you should consider studying abroad with
us at Khalifa University. Here's my business card. Don't worry, e-mail works in
Abu Dhabi too." About four months later I was on a plane to the other side of
the world to learn from and help build a new institution.

Cosmopolitan Living

                "Cosmopolitan"
is the word for NYU-Abu Dhabi, an awesome nearby school that isn't much unlike
Olin, for a reason. Being at the junction between of Africa, Europe and Asia
plus having oil reserves that keeps America invested in this region puts the
UAE smack-dab in the middle of the world. Living in this city for three months,
I have met people from as many different countries, if not more, as I have in
the last 21 years of my life (mind you, that I've lived in San Jose, Needham,
and The Netherlands; plus a fair amount of travelling). Constantly meeting
people from different backgrounds is one of the more rewarding parts of life
here, and will likely be the thing that I miss most when I return to the US.

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At a Beach Ultimate
Tournament in Dubai

                Knowing
so many different people has reinforced my belief that everyone is a person
too. Everywhere you go; there is a healthy, Gaussian distribution of
personalities and beliefs across all spectrums (intelligence, liberalism,
etc.). This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. However, the weight
of this statement doesn't really hit you until you travel to an incredibly
different place. For Americans, one of those places is the Muslim/Arab World.
Case and point - have you ever really gotten to know a Palestinian and hear
his/her story? If not, please do so.

The Good Life

I think that speak for most people
what I've talked to here when I say that I have a love/hate relationship with
the city. The rules and atmosphere of living in what is approximately a
benevolent police-state can get to you some of the time, although 98% of the
time you don't notice it. One third of life here is all about cars, fast food
and shopping malls. It's a part of life here that drives me insane. The next
third is the rich, cosmopolitan city life which can give you almost whatever
you want, provided that you look hard enough for it. Ex: Argentinian Tango classes (thanks to
Laura Stupin ('07) who tipped me off to them), a hidden Frisbee league and NYU Abu Dhabi's events.
The final third is the more traditional lifestyle lived by both Emirati
Nationals and Arab Ex-Pats. This is the hardest lifestyle to get to experience,
but is often the most rewarding to become acquainted with.

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At a traditional Emirati wedding, at these events them men don't mix with
the women until the end, when the groom attends the bride's half of the party.

Arab hospitality is legendary for a
reason, and the foreigners who travel here are predominantly an adventurous and
open-minded bunch. When you can't find something in Abu Dhabi (like a good cup
of tea...) you can almost always find it, and much, much more in Dubai (which
really should be pronounced "Du-freaking-bai" since it has so many epically
cool, albeit superficial, things like the world's tallest tower, and a
palm-tree shaped island). Life here is good. More people from the US need to
check out this part of the world. Oh, and classes are good too.

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