Global Guru: Former CF teacher embracing new career at school in Dubai

Former CFHS Spanish teacher Patricia Black, who is originally from Argentina, was one of three teachers to leave Cedar Falls and move across the world to take a new teaching job after last year.

Black currently works at the American School of Dubai and immerses herself in the culture of the United Arab Emirate city. The American School of Dubai was founded in 1966 and is a Pre-K through 12 college preparatory school of 1,630 students, 80 percent of which hold U.S. or Canadian passports, according to the school’s website.

“At the American School of Dubai, there are students of 76 different nationalities, and that is true in part because it is very hard to become an Emirati yet a clear indication of an international city,” Black said.

Over 95 percent of graduates attend college, and 89 percent attend universities in the United States or Canada, including top tier universities. “Our students are looking to get into an American or European universities, so they feel the pressure of performing at high levels academically.”

Like Cedar Falls High School, the American School of Dubai offers American-based college preparatory curriculum and AP classes.

Though Black is new to the culture of Dubai, she is not alone. Dubai, a city of 2.8 million people, consists of 80 percent expatriots.

“Initially you feel as an outsider, yet the population is so diverse that it is not long before you become part of the melting pot,” Black said. “For example, the workers that came to our department to set up Internet were Nepalese; the ones that brought furniture were from India, and although we communicated for the most part in English, people feel very comfortable using and listening to other languages. It is the norm. It is expected.”

The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, meaning women are expected to dress modestly, carry an ID to buy and consume alcohol, or to own and operate motor vehicles, and many other things that are drastically different than the norms Black was used to in the United States.

“Dubai surprised me as a very modern, heavily populated, growing community that has a lot to offer,” Black said. “It is very traditional and conservative in some ways, yet so 21th century and futuristic in others.”

While the culture shock was initially intimidating and she was far from Iowa, Black was able to find comfort in her surroundings and learn new things. “To my surprise and amazement, I found people from Iowa within the staff, which is really heart warming,” Black said. “There are so many things to do and places to visit. I have never lived in an Arab country, so their culture, food, religion and, in general, every aspect of daily life is different from what I was used to, so I find myself fascinated with the experiences.”

Though she spends her time basking in the Dubai sun and creating memories of her new life, Black remains reminiscent of those made in Cedar Falls. “I dearly miss Carlos, Maria (my kids), family, friends, colleagues and the great community of Cedar Falls, Iowa,” Black said. “I will forever be grateful for love, opportunities and support that my family and I received there.”

However, Black is up for the rewards that the personal challenge brings.

“Life at school is intense. There is always so much to learn and do as a newcomer, yet I find the challenge exciting and invigorating.”

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