Growing up is rough, especially when you’re expected to be a fully functioning adult as a foreigner. Here are some life skills I had to learn the hard way:
After moving in the time came to do my laundry. (No, I didn’t pull the classic freshman move of washing reds and whites together.) Nowadays laundry is a tedious chore, but it’s easy… when you can find the laundry room. I tried accessing it through the kitchen, the lounge, the study room, and a random bathroom before I realized I would need a miracle – or the Marauder’s Map – to find it. So I finally broke down and asked someone. Turns out it’s outside. And it’s a sauna.
If only that were the end of my troubles. Then I realized the machines only take coins, but there was no bill exchange in sight. ATMs don’t give out 1 AED coins; it’s like dispensing US quarters. So I went to the other girls’ dorm laundry room to find a way to turn paper dirhams into loose change. When that didn’t work, I bought a water bottle in the vending machine with a 10 dirham bill and got 9 coins back. Ka-ching! Life skill #1 hacked.
Like every American adult, I have a crippling addiction to caffeine. And like every broke hipster, I’m not about to spend $5 on Starbucks every day. It’s so mainstream. So I decided to buy a cheap, simple coffee pot to satisfy my morning needs. Maybe I just have no idea where to look, but after two supermarkets and three home stores in two different malls, I discovered coffee pots aren’t a thing here. I finally broke down and bought my first French press.
No one told me I was joining a cult. There is no other way to make coffee.
Getting off ‘off-the-grid’ status
How to get a SIM card as a tourist in the UAE:
- Unlock your phone. No, I don’t mean entering the passcode. Your carrier has to do this in their system, and you should have them do it before you leave your home country. It will be 10x easier!
- Buy a tourist SIM card at Etisalat or Du for 50-100 AED.
- Insert SIM card with a complimentary SIM tray key.
- Enjoy complimentary minutes, SMS, and data. (And coupons and vouchers if you go with du!)
How I got a SIM card as a tourist in the UAE:
- I skipped the most important step (#1), and blazed smoothly through #2.
- Then I got stuck at #3 (for which I bought an unnecessary SIM tray key) because I had skipped #1.
- I went back to #1 online, and then proceeded to wait two days before I could use my new SIM.
Sidenote: you cannot buy prepaid plans with a tourist SIM card. I have to get my residence visa before I can purchase more data. However it is possible to add minutes, so call me.
This is the true struggle for all millennials. The person who discovers the secrets to waking up – and getting out of bed – will be richer and more loved than J.K. Rowling.
Yes, I did bring a real alarm clock here, and yes, I set it each night to go off the next morning. No, it doesn’t work. I woke up to the cleaners coming in…twice.
Have you ever watched Julia & Julia, No Reservations, Burnt or Ratatouille and thought, ‘I could be a chef!’? Lies.
Unlike some people my age, I have experience cooking. For awhile I wanted to be a pastry chef, so I’ve baked pretty much any dessert you can think of. I’ve seen every episode of Ace of Cakes, and I’ve honestly thought about pulling a Maggie Gyllenhaal from Stranger Than Fiction and dropping out of school to start my own bakery. But none of these rookie activities prepared me for this:
The ovens in my dorm kitchen are not only in Celsius, but they’re also ancient. I didn’t know you could select the temperature with a knob! I’ve always used a digital oven, with several nice little buttons. After waiting 20 minutes for the oven to warm up to 200 degrees Celsius (which I had to convert from Fahrenheit with help from Google) it dawned on me that I hadn’t pushed the preheat button. Why? Because I stuck my hand in the middle of the oven, and it was room temperature. And there are no buttons!
So like any introverted millennial beyond her depth, I googled it. And by “it” I mean five different searches with slight variations in the wording because nothing helpful was coming up. When I thought all hope was lost I found a random blog post from the UK explaining the different symbols on this knob:
It worked. I was finally able to cook my tofu in peace.
In other news I’ve been mistaken for a freshman a couple times, and people on campus keep asking me if I’m a visiting student.