American Student Returns from Semester at Mason’s RAK Campus

Posted: February 11, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Matthew Brooks
Matthew Brooks
Photo by Catherine Ferraro

Imagine attending school on a campus that is minutes away from the rugged mountains, sandy deserts and lush green plains along the Persian Gulf.

As part of the Center for Global Education’s trans-campus mobility program, Mason students have an opportunity to spend a semester studying at the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Campus in the United Arab Emirates.

Mason’s RAK Campus currently offers bachelor of science degrees in biology, business administration, electronics and communications engineering, economics, geography, health, fitness and recreation resources and applied computer science. A bachelor of arts degree in communications is also offered.

Matthew Brooks, a junior majoring in global affairs with a concentration in the Middle East, North Africa and managing the global economy, just returned after spending the fall 2007 semester studying at the RAK Campus. Brooks was the first student from Mason’s Fairfax Campus to be enrolled at RAK.

While at RAK, Brooks took IT 103 Introduction to Computing, HIST 282 Survey of Middle Eastern Civilization, HIST 125 Introduction to World History and CHSS 390 Peer Tutoring Online with the Fairfax Campus. He was also a tutor at the newly opened writing center.

“Being able to study at the RAK Campus gave me a better understanding of the world,” says Brooks. “Most people simply identify themselves with the country in which they live. Being able to leave the U.S. and travel to another country gave me a new perspective about how I see myself in this world.”

Attending classes at the RAK Campus was not much different from attending classes at one of Mason’s campuses in the United States, according to Brooks. One of the biggest differences was the smaller enrollment and class sizes ranging between seven to 13 students, allowing for more communication between teachers and students. Although most of the students had attended Americanized high schools, students and teachers came from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

Even while it is still developing, the RAK Campus provides many of the same activities and services as Mason’s other campuses. For example, University Life arranges weekly activities such as taking a trip to a local museum or a night of bowling. Students are also encouraged to establish a club that interests them and participate in the governance of the university by sitting on a university standing committee.

While in RAK, Brooks stayed in a double occupancy dorm room with another student and had a choice of using the Mason meal plan or providing his own meals. A bus transported students from the dorm to campus.

In his free time, Brooks and other students played pool, went to the movies or traveled to Dubai. Brooks was also able to take a trip to Turkey for a few days. While in RAK, his goal was to learn to speak Arabic to communicate better with the people who lived there, but he actually ended up learning more Urdu and Farsi, because of the international nature of the student body.

Also unexpected was the fact that many people thought Brooks was Arab, and since he grew up in the Midwest, this seemed odd to him. In addition, Brooks had to learn to get around without a car. Most of the time he and other students took taxis if they wanted to go anywhere and oftentimes walked home with their groceries from the supermarket.

“My advice to anyone who is interested in studying in RAK is to go for it,” says Brooks. “In many ways you are testing yourself and who you are because you are seen differently by other people. There are so many cultural things going on in the world, and as Americans, I don’t think we are always aware of it.”

For more information about the RAK Campus, visit the web site.

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