Oleg Ben-Avi, a third-year student in the Digital Society Studies Track at the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences, was the first student from TAU to meet with students from the University of Dubai.
Connecting through Instagram
Oleg’s meeting with the Chairman of the University of Dubai’s Student Union, the Union’s Consultant and the Head of its Gaming Club, was coordinated by Ido Montaniez, Head of Culture, Sports and Foreign Affairs at the TAU Student Union, who says: “We have good relations with universities in the UAE, and every day we form more ties. But our ties with the Student Union of the University of Dubai are especially close.” Ido recounts how he created the initial contact through the Instagram: “We conduct thorough research on every institution we wish to contact. If we find that a certain institution is especially active on a social network, we use that channel. Encountering too many obstacles in the University of Dubai’s formal channels, I turned to the social networks, and it worked,” he smiles.
Once the channel had opened, Oleg, a TAU Union representative on holiday in Dubai, was more than happy for the opportunity to make new friends. He shared his experiences with us:
- What did you as a student gain from this encounter?
“As a student of Digital Society Studies (Sociology-Anthropology and Communication), I wanted to get to know their culture and social perceptions. At the beginning the conversation was a bit guarded, but gradually they opened up, and I found people who are not very different from us. They are cynical like we are, they enjoy free humor – as long as it does not offend their religion, but even this rule can be bent at times. They are in favor of criticism, and open to discussions and questions that can be challenging. For example, the standup performances of Achmed the Dead Terrorist are very popular over there.”
- What insights did you gain from the meeting?
“I realized that the degree I am studying for can really be useful, today and in the future. I saw how active they are on the social networks, and how the technological revolution has helped Dubai grow and become a world power in quite a few areas. It was also clear to me that this meeting was only the beginning. They expect to establish numerous collaborations with us, between our universities specifically, and with Israel in general. My new friends just can’t wait to visit Israel. I played some Israeli music for them, which I thought was their style (based on what they had played for me) and told them that we have an enormous range of music genres. They loved it!”
- What about a return visit to Israel?
“The Student Union is planning official visits, joint seminars and student exchange programs with its UAE partners. A full week of online events is planned for March, including both social and academic meetings between students. I invited them to Israel and promised to be their guide. I do hope they’ll take me up on it.”
Pic: Oleg, Ahmed, Matt and Abdullah at a café.
TAU’s Foreign Office
Behind the scenes, planning meetings and collaborations between students, we also found TAU’s VP International, Prof. Milette Shamir, and the team at TAU International – responsible for TAU’s interface with universities worldwide, serving international students and proposing suitable programs.
“From the moment the agreements were signed it was clear that, in addition to forming new academic connections and collaborations, we must also define the role of academia in building bridges between nations and cultures,” says Prof. Shamir. “Ties between students are an excellent basis for all the rest. The spirit of Tel Aviv University, which places great emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the city of Tel Aviv – an international hub of entrepreneurship, go very well with the spirit of universities in Bahrein and the UAE, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where entrepreneurship and innovation also predominate.”
“One high-potential aspect of our connection with the UAE is the prospect of bringing over some of their outstanding students. Many young people from the UAE go overseas to study, and traditionally they prefer elite academic institutions in the UK or US. Now they can attend excellent universities closer to home, offering programs that can suit their fields of interest, and an environment that feels more like home. 20% of our students know Arabic from home. We are in the Middle East. We have hummus in our cafeteria.”
Featured image: Oleg Ben-Avi and his friends from the University of Dubai