Reading, Writing, and Readiness: Mason Opens Its First Program in the United Arab Emirates

By Christopher Anzalone, BA History ’05 and BA Religious Studies ’05

In September, Rae Roberts, director of Mason’s Foundation English Language Program on the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Campus in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and her staff began their first semester of classes teaching students how to communicate successfully and comfortably in English in an academic setting.

Successful completion of the Foundation Program is one way students who are interested in pursuing further course work at the RAK Campus can show fluency in English. The campus is scheduled to begin full-scale operations this fall.

The Foundation Program currently has 30 students from nine Middle Eastern countries and regions: the UAE, Yemen, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, Sudan, Oman, Iraq, Iran, and Jordan. These students, who are preparing for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and SATs, take classes in a recently renovated men’s college that has three classrooms, a computer lab, and a library.

“My experience in the UAE has been a memorable one,” says Roberts via e-mail. She arrived in August to greet a staff that includes three faculty members who have each taught in the Middle East for five or more years. Two of the faculty members are from the United States, and one is from Australia.

“Ras Al Khaimah is an interesting place to live,” Roberts reports. “Because it is located on the Persian Gulf, one can swim every day. It is also surrounded by low-lying mountains and nearby sand dunes for the more adventurous.

“The biggest adjustment has been to the temperatures,” Roberts continues. “When I arrived in August, it was around 115 degrees Fahrenheit each day. We are now in the cooling cycle of winter, and the days have cooled to around 95 degrees. I am told that it will continue to cool. Camping equipment is springing up in the stores, and outdoor cafés are opening because it is now cool enough to begin to enjoy the outdoors.

“We are all looking forward to continuing the program next semester and to the opening of the new campus in the fall. We want to thank the hardworking staff for all they did to help open the first Mason program here.”

Capt. Bruce H. Lindsey, PhD Public Policy ‘05 and executive officer on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, (center) stopped by Mason’s RAK location and visited with Rae Roberts (far left) and other staff members.