During the last few months of the InfoSkills project I had decided to look at working abroad again. I had a friend that lived in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and I had a yen to work where the sun ALWAYS shines. I applied for a few jobs and even went for an interview. I found out with quite short notice that I had got a job as Faculty Librarian at Dubai Women’s College and was due to start at the beginning of August. So after a pretty manic couple of months emptying my house and getting it ready for tenants and shipping my stuff out to Dubai, (Thank god for friends who work for Emirates!) I went to live in the Middle East.
It was an amazing experience. Not all of those experiences were great but it was always pretty astonishing. Living and working in a culture so different to your own is very challenging and you can feel a bit isolated and end up suffering from culture shock. This can often be the case, no matter how many times you have visited a country before, even if you as I did, have ready-made friends, who can show the ropes and when you have lived in other countries as well. I can’t stress enough – and forgive me if this seems pretty obvious, but even though you can shop at Marks& Spencers, Debenhams and even Top Shop in the UAE, living in the M.E. is NOTHING like living in Europe. So now that I have added these caveats, I want to add the good stuff. It is sunny. A LOT. Living by a beach is a great thing. Working with and teaching Emirati women is something I will never forget. I love their humour and their generosity. I remember one student, Laila saying to me on one late night, “Miss Lisa, you look tired!” I looked down and there was a Crunchie on my desk.
It was inspiring coming up with new ways to teach infolit that worked with students who spoke English as a Second Language. It was interesting trying to come up with scenarios that the students could identify with. Emirati women often have no experience of dealing with paying bills, going to banks or post offices and what we consider plagiarism is considered sharing and helping friends. Our students had often come from schools where rote learning was the main teaching method and at Dubai Women’s College they were being asked to critically think for might be the first time. In some ways it really was one of the best things I’ve ever done; it felt wonderful to help these women become more educated. However in the end, I did decide that it wasn’t for me. As a pretty liberal Westerner, I found a lot of the labour laws and ways difficult to take and in the end came home in 2006.
After Dubai, I got a job as the Information Centre Manager at the Equal Opportunities Commission – which I felt was a perfect foil to my time in Dubai. I was at the EOC for 18 months working as a solo librarian in charge of 4 small, sometimes VERY small, regional libraries in the Manchester, London, Glasgow and Cardiff offices. I discovered that although I quite enjoyed being the ‘brains of the operation’ so to speak, I like working in a large organisation of information professionals. I like the camaraderie, the brain storming, the CPD, the opportunities for mentoring, (as in people mentoring me and not always the other way round!), my boss knowing what I’m talking about. J (Apologies to David, this wasn’t his fault.)
So I got a job at Mimas. I’ve been here 3 years now. (WOW. Really???? Where does the time go?) I love working at Mimas, I love working with clever people with lots of ideas. I like the variety that I get as the Promotions and Outreach Officer for the Archives Hub and Copac. I train, I present, I write, I project-manage, I answer queries, I research, I market, I TALK…yup, I do that a lot. I’m often found working on the Mimas exhibition stand. And when I say working…I pretty much mean talking.
Wow, what an interesting route in you’ve had! Thanks for posting this 🙂
Working in the Middle East must have been such an interesting experience. Thanks for sharing a bit about it – I’ve never met any women who’ve worked there before, so that was a really interesting insight.
Thanks, I’m really pleased you enjoyed it. As an enormously lucky – simply because of where I was born – educated professional woman – I really felt I was making a difference to others that hadn’t had the opportunities I had. As you can imagine, there were other challenges too – being a woman living in the Middle East. (even though Dubai is a fairly ‘liberal’ Emirate and by liberal I mean that I could work, drive, drink alcohol and live on my own).
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