The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a young country with big dreams. Bordered by the Arabian/Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Indian Ocean, the UAE has experienced huge economic development and social transition since its establishment as a country in 1971.

With its central location on the global map, and its booming and diverse economy founded on petroleum products, banking, education, construction and tourism - the UAE offers an exhilarating range of attractions, including innovative architecture, camel racing, manmade islands, desert safaris, amusement parks, water sports, camping, indoor skiing, and shopping. Visiting students will never be bored!

Photo credit: andryn2006.

Popular Destinations

The UAE includes seven emirates total: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Um-Al-Qwain, Ras al Khaimah, and Fujeirah. Each of these three emirates are ruled by their own Sheikh, who is also a member of the UAE’s Supreme Governing Council, and each contains a namesake city. The key study abroad destinations are the three largest emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

Abu Dhabi:

Abu Dhabi is the capital emirate and city, with many attractions including endless sand beaches, the enormous Yas-Island Water Park, the developing architectural and museum offerings on Saadiyat Island, and great locations for diving and snorkeling. Speed lovers will also enjoy down-time at Ferrari World and the Marina Circuit, while environmentalists will want to explore the innovative green city of Masdar, located on the city outskirts. Further afield within the Abu Dhabi Emirate, visitors can explore the Empty Quarter and the oasis city of Al Ain. One interesting study abroad opportunity here, particularly in the areas of filmmaking, acting, screenwriting and producing, is the New York Film Academy.


Dubai, nicknamed ‘City of Gold’, is located about 80 miles north of Abu Dhabi. Visitors to Dubai can e.g. go to the top of the Burj Khalifa (i.e. tallest building in the world, visit the Jumeirah Palm (i.e. man-made island shaped like a palm tree), view the Dubai Fountains at the Dubai Mall (i.e. largest mall in the world), ski at the Mall of the Emirates, enjoy afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab (’s first 7-star hotel) or sky dive through “I Fly Dubai”. Potential study abroad opportunities in Dubai include the American University of Dubai (AUD) for general studies, or Shaikh Zayed University’s Arabic Study Abroad Program (ASAP).


Sharjah, UNESCO’s designated ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ in 1998, is located just north of the city of Dubai. Sharjah is known for its efforts to preserve the Arab culture, with its many cultural museums, heritage areas, traditional souks, lagoons, and active dhow ports. Sharjah is also home to the beautiful, park-like University City, located just across the street from the Sharjah International Airport, and approximately twenty minutes from the world-famous Dubai International Airport. Within University City, visitors have an exciting opportunity to study abroad at the American University of Sharjah (AUS). AUS offers an American-style of education in a co-educational, English language environment with an extremely diverse population of approximately 5,500 students and 350 faculties consisting of 85 different nationalities. AUS has four colleges and schools: College of Engineering (bachelor degree programs are ABET-accredited); College of Architecture, Art and Design (Bachelor of Architecture is NAAB-accredited); School of Business and Administration (AACSB-accredited); and a College of Arts and Sciences.

Planning Your Trip

How to Choose a Program

The UAE is highly internationalized and a fantastic study abroad option for people looking for a modern country that is still a bit off the beaten path.

  1. Language: Most study abroad destinations in the UAE offer predominantly English-language courses.
  2. Housing: Visiting students can expect to live in gender-segregated dorms, either private or shared, alongside local students.
  3. Academic Life: When it comes to classroom culture and academic life, UAE-based universities share a lot of similarities with other programs offered around the world. The academic culture in most school is similar to American or British systems, with small class sizes and course assessment for a range of practical work, e.g. quizzes, exams, papers and projects.

UAE does not issue specific student visas, instead students will apply for a one-year residency visa. Student residency visas are ‘sponsored’ and organized by the university. In order to issue a visa, students must undergo a range of medical screening tests within an authorized UAE medical center, including chest x-ray and blood test screening for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Tuberculosis, Leprosy, and Syphilis. If results came back positive for any of the above-mentioned conditions, the person will be deported. In addition, students must apply for an Emirates ID upon arrival.

Social Life and Student Culture

Public transportation in the UAE is plentiful, and often offers special rates for students. Various discount programs are also available both within and outside of universities. In addition to the wide range of in-country activities, students here also make use of the central location of the UAE to travel around to nearby countries such as Kenya, India, and Jordan. The incredible diversity of nationalities within the UAE exposes students to a wide range of cultures from across the Arab/Islamic world and beyond. In addition to English and Arabic, visitors will overhear conversations in a vast array of other languages (e.g. Urdu, Farsi) and Arabic dialects.


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Studying abroad within the UAE will be a life-changing experience. Students can continue their studies in a high-quality, educational environment, while experiencing true internationalization in every sense of the word.

Contributed by Dr. Linda Angell & Sally Alhamad
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Study Abroad Programs in the UAE

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Looking for something to do during your time in the Middle East? Check out some of these tours and trips!

What People Are Saying

In Fall of 2015 of my junior year, I decided to study abroad at the American University of Sharjah. Five months later, I could say that this was an experience that I will hold close to my heart for...

Studying abroad at the American University of Sharjah has taught me a lot about what it means to be alive as myself. It has expanded my consciousness in ways that I never thought possible. I know a...

Studying abroad in the United Arab Emirates has been the most humbling for me. While growing up America, one is endlessly being badgered with negative images of the middle east. I am not surprised to...

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