Fall 2010 Issue

Alumni Connection

A big move

Jose Rodriguez ’08, his wife, Luciana, and their daughter, Mila, pose for a family picture outside of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It is the second largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world.

At the end of Jose Rodriguez’s first year teaching in the Miami-Dade County public school system, officials told him that due to budgetary concerns they could not promise him a job for the next school year.

Wait until August and we’ll have an answer for you, they said.

For Rodriguez ’08, whose wife, Luciana, had just given birth to their first child, Mila, that wasn’t an option.

He went online in search of job prospects where he came upon a listing titled “Teach in Abu Dhabi.”

Rodriguez, who majored in elementary education, didn’t know anything about the United Arab Emirates or its capitol city, Abu Dhabi. He did a quick Google search and wasn’t exactly pleased with what he saw.

“It was surrounded by Iran, Pakistan and Iraq. My first thought was I didn’t want to get killed,” he said.

But after more research he discovered that it is a modern country, one of the richest in the world, populated by nearly 80 percent expatriates with a median age of 30.

That allayed his concerns and when he heard the terms of the job, he was sold.

Rodriguez would be teaching English to second-graders. For that he and his family would receive free housing and medical care, $6,000 to buy new furniture and free airline tickets home once a year.

And the cost of living - a loaf of freshly baked bread costs 27 cents - would allow them to save money for the future. Even better, his salary would allow his wife to stay home and raise their daughter.

“Everything with the economy was getting worse. There was no end in sight. A lot of families that come here, they have little job security and debt to pay. So this is the best place to come. You can send a lot of money back to the U.S.”

Rodriguez and his family moved to Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2009. He is entering the final year of a two-year contract and has every intention of extending their stay another two to three years.

“I met people who started on a two-year contract and this is their 15th year here. It’s not what people think it is,” he said.

The biggest misconception people have about Abu Dhabi is that it is a haven for anti-American sentiment and radical Islam, but that’s not the case at all, Rodriguez noted.

“At the mall there’s a sign saying, ‘Please wear modest clothing and no inappropriate public displays of affection.’ But if you do it you’re not going to get in trouble or thrown in jail. It’s just out of respect for the culture.”

For Rodriguez and his family, some of the best, most peaceful moments of the day come with the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer.

“We hear the prayer calls five times a day. We open our window and listen to the five mosques around us. They each have a different singer, so we hear the echo of all five. It’s not my religion but it’s beautiful and that’s when we stop and feel really thankful for where we are and what we have.”