Learning from Life


I cannot quite believe that I am back in Scotland. Two months definitely fly when you’re having so much fun. I have had the most amazing time over in the UAE exploring and getting to know all about the culture and the lifestyle there. It really is incredible.

I’ve gone from being a nervous 19-year-old who had never travelled themselves before, to a 19-year-old who now knows to never underestimate my own abilities and the things I am able to do. This placement has taught me a lot about myself and has done wonders for my confidence and initiative in new and unfamiliar situations.

I was lucky enough to work in both an IB school and a British Curriculum school over my 6 weeks of placement. It was so interesting to see a different approach to teaching and witness EAL (English as an Additional Language) teaching in practice alongside the differentiation that comes with it. For me, this showed me that lessons don’t have to involve everyone doing the same task and that we can find so many ways to teach a topic with different activities that meet the needs of all children. EAL was very interesting but also very challenging. For most of my pupils, Arabic is their first language and the language they use whilst at home. Consequently, their understanding of English and certain terminology is lower. When teaching and delivering lessons to groups of pupils, it often became more difficult due to the language barriers. This is where collaborative learning was a MASSIVE help. The pupils were able to translate what I had said into Arabic for some of their peers, which was so beneficial and because embracing the culture is such a big thing in my school, pupils are allowed to communicate using Arabic.

This placement also allowed me to fill a gap in my understanding that had been taunting me for years. Teaching Early Years. We had so many inputs about teaching in the Early Years during semester two of this year however I was still struggling to imagine how learning through play and planning and delivering a curriculum whilst incorporating play would work. I now have a much deeper understanding of how this is done and that although a lot of the day is playing, these experiences are vital and often have academic purposes. This has calmed me down significantly when considering my MA3 placement as I have now seen it in practice and have witnessed how to deal with behaviour, emotional attachment and the planning side to it.

One thing I would say to anyone considering going to the UAE whether it be to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah or any of the other emirates is to go with an open mind. This is something that looking back on my experiences, I wish I had. It is so so easy to be drawn in and form opinions about things based on what other people say. The UAE gets a lot of negativity due to some of their values, laws and culture. However, more often than not, this is blown out of proportion and when you actually spend time getting to know about the culture all these things seem so insignificant. I wish I could go back and tell myself not to have been so worried about what MIGHT happen.

Before I stop rambling, I would like to say that this has been one of the most incredible opportunities and experiences I have ever had. Learning from Life is a great programme and I would recommend going abroad if you ever wanted to. I am so thankful to Julie and Ray who let me stay with them and to all the people I met whilst there who really made my experience amazing. Here are some helpful tips below about the UAE.

  1. Parts of the UAE are very conservative. Try to be respectful when in public places such as malls by covering your knees and shoulders. This is a cultural thing there. At pools, beaches and hotels bikinis/swimsuits are totally fine and shorts and t-shirts can be worn out in public just not in places like the mall or any mosques.
  2. The UAE is slightly more expensive than UK prices but not significantly so. Make sure you check the exchange rate before you go so that you have a rough idea of how much money you are spending! There are loads of things you can do for free!
  3. Brunch – On Fridays in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah they have brunches. This is an experience which I would definitely recommend. You pay around 250 dirhams (£50- £55 this is the alcohol package) for unlimited food and drinks of your choice. The brunch is a great place to see loads of friends and have fun with amazing views.
  4. Although it is scary going to a different country yourself, everyone in the UAE was so welcoming to me so don’t be afraid to go and make friends – I’ve left Ras Al Khaimah with a new best friend!
  5. The metro in Dubai is a massive help. It’s very similar to the Subway in Scotland and gets you from A to B quickly.
  6. During Ramadan, you are not allowed to eat or drink in public places unless you are in a restaurant with covered windows. If planning a trip to the UAE I would take this into consideration as this year Ramadan fell in May and the temperatures were ranging from 35 – 40 degrees.

Some things to do –

  • Dubai Mall – This place is incredible however it is MASSIVE so make sure you give yourself time.
  • Dubai Fountains (situated outside Dubai Mall). The fountains are free and are well worth going to visit. They are also right next to the Burj Khalifa so if you don’t want to spend money going to the top of the Burj, you can see it up close from here.
  • The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is well worth a visit if you are in Abu Dhabi. This is also free and you are free to walk about the mosque. I was mesmerised by the mosque and the attention to detail! (Women will be given an Abaya to wear).
  • Kite Beach – This is a beautiful peaceful beach in Dubai with a view of the Burj Al Arab in the background. Lots of people surf here so it is very cool to see.
  • Ladies Night – Ladies night in the UAE is a way of getting males to come out with their partners by giving ladies a number of free drinks. Again this is a great way to catch up with your friends.

Finally, I have attached a video of my time in the UAE where I visited many of the places mentioned above!

Enjoy and if anyone has any questions feel free to give me a message on Twitter – @UODEdu_Purdie. 




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