When NYU Abu Dhabi sophomore Hee Eun Kwon signed up for the Breakthrough with the Green Sheikh program earlier this semester, she didn’t know what to expect. "I applied because although I had lived in Dubai for the past 12 years, I went to a school with a very international population," Kwon said. "I was excited for the opportunity to bond with the people who live here, see their lifestyles and their homes, and form a relationship with a sheikh, which is not that common!"
The Breakthrough with the Green Sheikh program was coordinated and executed by the office of Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi of Ajman in partnership with NYUAD's Office of Student Life. The program satisfied Kwon's desires for cultural immersion and also challenged her and seven of her female classmates to understand their own personal boundaries and strengths through a variety of activities. "The sheikh's aim was to create a program that had us feel our limits, find our walls, and then demolish them," Kwon said. "Through these activities, we were working together, learning about ourselves, and realizing how important relationships are."
Some of the weekend activities included a hospital visit to present children with gifts, a food care packing and distribution event with the Al Ihsan Charity Association, a visit to a beautiful mosque in Ajman during the early morning prayer, a variety of team-building activities, and a mountain hike in Ras al Khaimah. Kwon also had the unique opportunity to speak on the sheikh's weekly program on Sharjah Radio. "There was an Emirati girl, Sua'ad Al Hamadi, who was fluent in Korean. I would communicate with her in Korean, she would [then] translate into Arabic for the sheikh, and he would then ask me questions that I would answer in my Arabic," Kwon explained. "I felt like a special guest! I am still in touch with the girl, and the language practice for both of us is great."
The busy schedule and uplifting events made Breakthrough with the Green Sheikh weekend a memorable one for Kwon. "I would love to do this again, but more than anything, I would love for others to try this as well," she said. "The sheikh put a great deal of effort and consideration into designing the program. I am very grateful to him for opening up and allowing us to experience his life, his home, and his family and friends."