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Dubai study abroad program helps students connect communities

March 05, 2010

For many students, spending winter break overseas may sound like the perfect getaway from academia. However, some students study abroad during the winter break – continuing their education about themselves and their coursework, in and out of the classroom.

Jamil AlShraiky heads up the Herberger Institute Winter Study abroad in Dubai program, and is an assistant professor and director of the Healthcare Design Initiatives in the ASU Herberger Institute School of Design Innovation. During the 2009 winter session, 11 students with different academic and personal pursuits set off with AlShraiky to the Persian Gulf to study in Dubai. There, they focused on how a culture can influence a city’s infrastructure and conducted a comparative analysis between Phoenix and Dubai, since both cities share many goals and circumstances related to rapid urban growth associated with the built environment.

“Growing populations are placing increasing demands on limited resources while at the same time, individuals are striving to secure the necessary tools in education, health, economic prosperity and peaceful coexistence, which will ensure a constantly improving quality of life for current and future generations,” AlShraiky said.

During their time abroad last winter, students focused on three program tracks: climatic responses and sustainability; the delivery and design of health care systems; and built environment growth.

“In all of these areas, the potential exists to jointly assess current knowledge and collaborate on developing and implementing new capabilities,” AlShraiky said. “At the same time, it’s important to ensure the appropriate policy environment to guarantee success in these new ventures.”

The built environment growth track is what appealed to graduate student Joseph Herbst, who literally made it to the top of the manmade world. Herbst accompanied the press to the opening ceremony of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which scrapes the sky at more than 2,600 feet, and boasts more than 160 stories. Documenting the building’s opening with videos, Herbst interviewed the building’s general manager and twice visited the top of the towering skyscraper – once during the day and once at night.

“I was able to see and experience different architecture, both ancient and modern, than what I have here in the Western Hemisphere,” said Herbst, who is pursuing a master’s in architecture and a master’s of science in the built environment. “I have a much broader view of the world in general and have gained a better understanding of the Middle Eastern culture.”

The overseas experience really moved Herbst and changed his perspective about his current course of study.

“I came away from Dubai with a better direction I want to go with my architecture, and I'm moving more toward health care design,” he said. “I’m more convinced than ever that architecture needs to not only fulfill the vision of the client, but should also respond to its environment, and grow with the rest of the city. Small is not always a bad way to begin.”