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Feb. 16, 2022

Student view: A trip of a lifetime

David Tran (he/him) is a Vietnamese American senior studying international relations, with minors in Asian Pacific American Studies and business. Tran is also a first-generation student and is active in the MSU Vietnamese Student Association, James Madison Student Senate and the University Academic Boards. He served on the 2021-22 Homecoming Court and is the 2019 JMC Doug Toma Outstanding Roommate recipient.

Since the pandemic restricted many opportunities for me to explore the world, I was eager to find another study abroad program before I graduate this spring. Dubai was one that stood out to me the most since I’ve always wanted to learn more about the Middle Eastern realm, and it is a global city that not many have a chance to explore in their lifetime.

Thanks to James Madison College adviser Max Olivero, his guidance, advice and knowledge about global opportunities have opened my eyes since arriving as a first-year student. Had it not been for Max, I wouldn't have known about the study abroad programs available or known how to navigate the process to make education abroad possible.

One word that accurately captures how I experienced Dubai upon arrival is “mesmerizing.” The city, the community and the people are all part of what has become one of the best experiences I’ve had.

Buildings like the Burj Khalifa that tower over the city, complementing the city’s architecture is a powerful sight. Because the United Arab Emirates is a desert, I didn’t expect how developed and innovative everything felt. Everywhere we went, we were welcomed and treated with the utmost respect and hospitality by the people of the UAE. 

Our excursions varied from the Louvre Abu Dhabi, an art museum located on an island outside of Dubai, to the first world heritage site of Al Ain to Gold Souk, which is a famous market. We even attended the World Expo 2020, which was postponed and is being held through March 2022 due to COVID.

Throughout my trip, what fascinated me most about the UAE was the strong ties to and emphasis on community. The country was established when Sheikh Zayed brought six emirates (a seventh would later join) together in hopes to unify as one country. His efforts did not go unchallenged, yet his vision became a reality.

Their history gives me hope for the future; the emirates worked together, and each sacrificed something dear in order to move toward building a life that would benefit generations to come. This is especially relevant today. We live in a world where everyone seems to be working against one another; however, if we take a step back and tackle the bigger issues at hand together, we may have a chance to be successful.

When I first arrived in Dubai, the tour guide said, “Dubai is the place where nothing is impossible and where dreams come true.” That statement alone inspires me to do my best to create a better future.

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