First of all, let me start with the basketball update that I promised in my last blog. As you can see in the photo gallery, there is a glory picture, which means that we came away with the championship in the tournament! As Ian mentioned in his latest post, it helped us gain a little bit of popularity among some of the students here at the Petroleum Institute. We’re still meeting new people every day, and it’s great to have people in the cafeteria call us over to sit with them and ask to show us around on the weekend.

There are a few surface differences between school here and back in the states. For example, I’ve never been 18th in a list of 25 students in an alphabetical list of last names (Many people here have Al [insert collection of letters here] as their last name) with a last name that starts with a B. Class start times and meeting times are a little bit more relaxed here than at Mines, too. However, the similarities between the PI and Mines are pretty remarkable. Engineering students typically have the same interests and personalities, and most people are here in school to get a good job so that they can live comfortably and support a family later down the road.

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The PI is also one of the few colleges on the planet that makes the girl-to-guy ratio at Mines look good because the male and female campuses are kept separate. While Cliff, Ian and I may struggle to compliment the ratio of one girl to four guys in the class of 2013 at CSM, it is not unusual for the students here to have had no contact with females their age. I think what’s most surprising about this is how much the students here bring it up without me prompting them. I’ve never broached the subject with anyone, but many PI students have expressed their desire to have more interaction with girls. This is just an observation from a newcomer, but when I was working out in the rec center and a picture of Paris Hilton (because everyone in America acts like they do on MTV, right?) came up on the TV, the focus of the students working out shifted away from the dumbbells and toward the screen for a bit too long…

Luckily, the people here have some pretty cool things to do in their backyard. This weekend, we went on what the locals call a desert safari. It’s one of those things that you have to put on your bucket list because it was awesome! Essentially, we took some SUVs on what was comparable to a roller coaster ride through the sand dunes. This activity is commonly referred to as dune bashing, an appropriate name. Not only was our driver as cool as a desert night the whole time, but he also fancied listening to the American Top 40 countdown with Ryan Seacrest on the radio while thoroughly voiding the warranty on his vehicle. Maybe he thought Wiz Khalifa, a popular American artist, helped him to focus on taking his driving to the next level. Or maybe he wanted to pay homage to Sheikh Khalifa, the current emir of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE, with the music of a rapper who shares his name. Either way, it was a pretty cool drive.

We then got out and admired the dunes. Running up the dunes and feeling the sand between our toes was really fun. As the sun started to set, we found our way to a camp, where we rode some camels, watched the sunset and enjoyed dinner in the company of our new classmates. Words can’t describe how awesome it was. There are some amazing things out there in the world, and the desert safari outside of Abu Dhabi ranks pretty high up on my list of coolest things that I’ve done.