Having spent a summer at both Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management, I was familiar with the best American campuses and their amenities. And yet, the American University of Sharjah (AUS) was unlike anything I had experienced. The whole semester, or year (if you’re lucky), you feel as if you’re studying in an ancient desert palace with really amazing Wi-Fi.
You land in DXB and already feel like a VIP just wondering through the airport. After bagging claim, a man was holding a sign with my name on it. It turned out that AUS had graciously sent a driver to meet me. Upon leaving the airport, the most memorable feeling was the area’s humidity slapping me across the face! However, I learned to love this aspect, as I’m from the cold and wet Pacific Northwest.
If you're looking to spend all your time in Dubai and set aside all your assignments, AUS might not be the school for you. Academics are no joke here. Classes are extremely small and intimate, making them even more challenging and rigorous. In addition, every single one of my professors was a rock star and I literally have no idea how a school could manage to pull this off. Prior to his tenure at AUS, my finance professor was a textbook author and former head trader at JPMorgan Germany; my accounting professor used to partner at accounting/audit giant KPMG Netherlands; and my economics professor sits on more high profile boards than seats in the school auditorium.
Speaking of which, the school’s main auditorium is massive and luxurious. The generous red velvet seats and playful ambiance makes you wonder how the Kodak theatre stacks up. This theme of “generous and ample”' defines their campus and way of living. The fitness center has an Olympic size pool, two weight rooms, and more outdoor tennis courts and soccer fields than they’ll every need (everyone plays soccer, excuse me, football). The dorm rooms are big and most include a roommate and private accommodations. I got lucky with my roommate, Chris from Nigeria, and he grew to be one of my best friends. Not everyone has this experience, but fortunately, we did.
Regarding the constant “generous and ample” theme clearly evident at AUS, nothing may have exemplified this more than the weekly buffet present in nearly every main building. Although not always available for students (though it often was), I shamelessly helped myself and indulged. The buffets are so grand, that they accompany many significant and world events, such as the MENA Economic Forum. This gives students the unimaginable opportunity to comingle with the most fascinating people. I actually got a picture with the Spanish Prime Minister.
The only thing more impressive than the university’s presence, influence, and buffets would be the Office of International Study & Exchange (IXO). Their small staff works hard to make sure we’re safe and happy; Linda Angell and Osama Jasim really spoiled us. Besides setting up unforgettable field trips to Jumeira Mosque and Oman (UAE’s less ostentatious neighbor), the IXO team is does a lot of ‘little’ things for the exchange students. Whether it’s getting us a bus reservation when we need it or celebrating every birthday with a dozens of donuts, the IXO department played a key role in ensuring an unforgettable experience.