Lindner Contingent Visits the UAE for ‘Life-Changing’ Study Abroad Experience

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The Lindner group atop a sand dune in Dubai. All photos courtesy of Charles Matthews.

Business and cultural activities leave a lasting impression on attendees

By Grant Freking

In December 2021, a 13-person cohort from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business became the first UC college to engage in a group study abroad program in 18 months, embarking on a nine-day study abroad experience in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Students enrolled in Special Topics United Arab Emirates and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region (INTB 5093) flew to the UAE. Faculty “leader” Charles “Chuck” Matthews, PhD, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, department of management, and “co-leader” Lee Armstrong, Lindner’s director of international programs, accompanied students for the travel component of the semester-long class.

Armstrong, Matthews and the students stayed in the city of Dubai within the Emirate of Dubai — the UAE is a federation of seven emirates — and visited three additional cities: Al Ain and Abu Dhabi (located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi) and Sharjah (located in the Emirate of Sharjah). Matthews devised an itinerary that included company briefings, cultural attractions, economic development exploration and more, with each day sporting a certain theme, such as “tourism and high-end hospitality economy” and “Emirati culture.” 

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The group at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Per Matthews’ syllabus for INTB 5093, the course is meant to provide a “deeper understanding of business, cultural, social, economic, legal and more issues, and the potential impact on social and business relations in the United Arab Emirates, as well as the broader MENA region.” 

“It’s a great experience for the students, especially on a relatively short learning journey. We cover all the topics in class, but it’s just not the same as being there,” Matthews said. “Going to the (Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding) and having a no-holds-bar Q&A with an Emirati that is focused sharing on how this country came into existence, how Emirati live, learn and lead in the Middle East — and then getting to see that play out in places like DP World and (the Abu Dhabi) Falcon Hospital, you can’t do that in a classroom.” 

The group’s company, cultural and tourist visits included: 

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Nick Natale, BS ’22, at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.

  • Discussion and lunch at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. 
  • The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. 
  • UAE University, located in Al Ain. 
  • The Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), a free economic zone in Dubai, to tour DP World, a multinational logistics company that connects businesses in 64 countries. 
  • The U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Dubai. 
  • Expo 2020 Dubai. 
  • The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. 
  • GE Aviation’s On Wing Support Center in Dubai. 
  • The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. 

As part of their experience, the students maintained a daily journal, examining cultural differences relevant to engaging in business in the UAE, and a group journal of their daily travels, experiences, lectures, briefings, cultural insights and more. 

I think I can speak for all of us when I say this trip blew all of our expectations out of the water.

Julian Martin, BBA ’22

“This trip is the perfect option for someone who has little traveling experience, but wants to travel in order to broaden their horizons and push themselves to experience new things,” said Nick Natale, BS ’22. 

Morgan McLaughlin, BBA ’22, took her notebook and a pen everywhere. 

“I still have my journal, and I want to turn it into a PDF to print into an actual book with photographs as both a memory of such a great time, and also a reminder that the world is a massive place,” McLaughlin said. 

McLaughlin called the experience “life-changing,” while Julian Martin, BBA ’22, said the group made “once-in-a-lifetime memories together.” 

“I think I can speak for all of us when I say this trip blew all of our expectations out of the water,” Martin said.

A full recap of this study abroad experience, with additional photos, is available on UC News.