once upon a time I was afraid to drive in… MICHIGAN!

I rented a little Toyota Yaris for the past few weeks while my host/mentor/chauffeur Stephanie was on vacation in the U.S. A wild two-week ride. Every day was terrifying, then ultimately somehow exhilarating when I reached home unscathed. I’ve never driven outside the U.S. until now and by golly would never have considered it were the Zayed U. campus not out in the desert where narry a taxi driver will agree to go…and where everyone with the means has their own car and petrol (oh, you say “gas”,the cost as in the U.S — Yaris filled up for about $13). Anyway, who knew the catharsis I’d find in the work of Dubai-based British artist Melanie Munnerley at the opening of her show, Isolated Incidents.

safe and sound in the ZU parking lot

Back to square one – May 1

Original writing is *usually* of the utmost importance to me. Occasionally I’ve recycled elements of one paper for an assignment in a different class, but what I’m about to do feels somehow too low for any self-respecting writer to go. But who said I was a self-respecting writer anyway? (did I?!) After putting off the reflection/update posting for several weeks and then finally writing — about turkey sandwiches, I thought I would include here my *official* internship report and part of the blog entry I wrote as a for-credit requirement. I’ve realized after being here more than a month the value of what I articulated about my experience in closer proximity to when it happened. That and I feel I’ve left a lot of you, my friends and family, with big gaps in the story that I intend to be more regular about sharing with you in this space. Apologies to any SI readers who might be annoyed to find my overly peppy and obnoxiously long (for that crappy narrow DFE blogspace) in this space as well.


I arrived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates 3 days after finishing exams! Crazy, maybe, but I wanted my experience here to include at least part of the regular semester ending June 20. Zayed University, where I will be interning until Aug. 1, is a bilingual (Arabic and English) university established in 1998 on the international model to educate young Emirati women. The student body here includes about 3,200 undergraduate students, and about 300 each of graduate students, faculty and staff. While the students are primarily Emirati, the faculty and staff come from around the world – quite literally. Many are from the neighboring gulf countries and the wider Middle East, but also many Brits, Australians, Indians, Americans, Chinese, and so on. It’s a vibrant and diverse environment that I am fascinated with the question of how it all came together. The UAE is a very young country and higher education is a high priority. ZU has a brand new campus out in the desert among construction projects that will ultimately make this land grant a few kilometers outside the main area of Dubai an “Academic City”. My main base here is in the Library and Learning Resource Center Technical Services Dept., but I have a shift on the Information Desk and anticipate working with the reference and public services librarians here on projects in their areas as well. In addition, I hope to participate in and/or direct my own research for a master’s thesis (still a maybe). Today, I am going to a research seminar on “The Social Consequences of Internet Use in the United Arab Emirates”. The faculty member presenting is currently conducting research on women’s empowerment and has a grant from the International Institute at UM. I am excited to talk with him about getting involved in some way. In the short time I’ve been here I’ve seen so much interaction and collaboration across departments – it’s so exciting to see the enthusiasm for innovation! Yesterday I participated in an informal lunchtime gathering of folks across the University (library, IT, faculty, etc) who meet regularly to discuss emerging technology topics. Yesterday’s focus was the new iGoogle portal! I am about to run to a meeting with the Center for Teaching and Learning here where we will be working on a library module to be used in the Blackboard system used at ZU.
It has been an exciting 2½ weeks for me in the Library and Learning Resources Center at Zayed University. Soon after my arrival, my mentor, Stephanie, gave me this advice: Be insatiably curious. I grinned and knew this internship was shaping up to be exactly what I’d hoped.

My first few days were filled with all the requisite tours and introductions. The staff were all very welcoming and seemed excited about my arrival. My initial impression of the ZU Library was that it balances very well a vibrant and lively vibe with a studious and austere one. I have come to realize in the few years since I set out on the career path of a librarian, as well as in my experience as a library user, the importance of everything from design elements and layout to hours of operation and enforcement of rules (talking, mobile phone usage, etc.) in the overall success of a library. Hence, I took note of all these little things. The Dubai branch of ZU moved to a newly constructed campus just at the beginning of this academic year, and it seems that all of the still sparkling facilities have a distinct advantage in terms of design. The main library area is contained entirely on the second floor of a building connected to the main classroom areas via a bridge. The layout is spacious and inviting. Study tables and carrels line the walls, with individual and group study rooms set within the central areas. One of the most exciting new features is the cafe, internationally known The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which is a major draw for the library and a great place for interaction between faculty, staff, and students. I really think this is part of the path to success for libraries and I was so excited to see that they’re among the innovators in this area.

Right away on my second day, I had the opportunity to travel to the ZU campus in Abu Dhabi for a joint collection development meeting. The two libraries work very closely despite the 1.5 hour drive between the two cities. The day I arrived, the librarian most involved in information literacy at Abu Dhabi was here in Dubai coordinating with the info literacy librarians here. They were in the process of developing a survey to measure the students’ success in mastering the new-this-year information literacy curriculum.

After I settled into my office in Technical Services, Stephanie began introducing me to the main projects I’ll be tackling during my time here. She is very busy as the head of Technical Services and the first several days of just shadowing her and observing her daily work I found immensely exciting and eye-opening. There is very little that can be considered routine in her day, what with so many meetings and trainings and lunchtime research seminars and student consultations. She has more technical experience than I, but I felt confident that some of my i-school repertoire was serving me well already. I walked around with a legal pad and wrote down every unfamiliar term that reached my ears. In my down time, I typed them into Microsoft OneNote (which I was introduced to in an Office 2007 orientation last week – a definite perk) and looked up each online. The web of terminology on my legal pad and computer screen is slowly but surely becoming part of a web of interrelated concepts that I am anxious to gain greater understanding about and be able to apply in my work here over the next few months and beyond!

eating turkey sandwiches again

Today marks my third full week in Dubai, and tonight is the first night I’m not having some delectable combo of hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanouj (called “moutable” here), olives, and the freshest, most heavenly pita bread imaginable for dinner. There is no food I love more than middle eastern, but back in the U.S., my budget’s too tight to have this whole spread every night, so it’s more often than not I opt for a good old turkey sandwich (with mayo and grey poupon, and spinach, if there is any). I think it’s a sign I’m settled in that the sliced turkey at Spinney’s (supermarket outside my door) looked so appetizing tonight.

As I start this new paragraph, I fear I’m violating some blogger etiquette already in my first entry (second if you count Sameer’s aptly corny impersonation that is my intro). I am much obliged to him for gifting me the prime blog space you see now before you as well as the much-coveted by Jen Simons everywhere www.jensimon.com, which will motivate me to create a web presence distinguishing myself as THE *Jen Simon* (among far, far too many)! So now that I’ve my acknowledgments out of the way, I shall apologize for my mixed up logic – this because I do intend to write about more substantial things than my dinner menu – AND for the lengthiness of this and probably every entry I will ever enter here. I may not write often, but when I do, it will be more than probably most will want to read. unless you really like me (or just my stories) as my Aunt Deb does. If you are not Aunt Deb, and you do read my streams of consciousness and tangential anecdotes, please let me know what you’d like to know about via the handy little comment function at the end of each entry. I’ll gladly take subject requests 🙂 I got a late start on this updates to the friends and fam thing… unlike on most of my previous adventures, I live in a city (no offense, Zhuji – you might be 10x the size of my hometown, but in China you’re very rarely even mapworthy!) (and Kaka, you too – while I don’t consider you as shitty as your name implies to anyone who knows a little Spanish, your only attraction is a manti restaurant and lots of dukanlar on every corner for me to buy Fanta). So Dubai is a city with too much luring me away from my computer. The ever-sunny skies and hot temps, miles of beaches, the sites and sounds, an art scene with shocking and provocative work like I’ve never seen, the wild and the weird of a region bursting out of its britches while trying to maintain its culture and heritage…икони


Hi – I am Jennifer Simon. I am tongue-tied (or finger-locked) and am unable to bring myself to write anything just yet. But if you are patient and persistent enough to keep checking back, you will find a lot of interesting information here. I like to travel and learn and my posts will mainly be anecdotal and sometimes reflective. Stay tuned!