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UAE students catch environment bug after summer course

Aseel Ahmad plans to design an environmentally sustainable office. Malak El Husseiny now turns the tap off when she brushes her teeth.

Both are among the students from around the region who yesterday completed the British University in Dubai's first sustainability summer school programme.

Changes the five-day course has prompted in students range from professional ambitions to personal habits.

Aseel, 20, is an interior design student at Ajman University. She said she planned to design the sustainable office for her third-year project.

"I've learnt so much. I didn't realise how serious this issue is," she said. "We've all heard of global warming but there is so much we don't know."

The course, including lectures and trips to sites such as the Al Ain waste management plant and Masdar City, was offered to 30 students out of 100 applicants from universities across the UAE and in countries including Egypt and India.

It was subsidised by Union National Bank and Fermacell, which makes sustainable building materials.

Malak, 19, an architecture and engineering student at the American University of Cairo, said the course taught her a great deal, even down to changing her behaviour.

She said she would take elements of the course into her studies and extra-curricular life. She plans to start a recycling project on campus.

"I want to help raise awareness to these issues," Malak said.

Ahmed Mousa, 21, is doing his master's in earthquake engineering at Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed found the interaction with professionals in the field such as Dubai Municipality and Pacific Control, which uses IT technology to reduce energy consumption in buildings, was the most useful part.

"I've learnt some basic concepts but also some tips on materials to use in construction, as well as the companies we've been dealing with," he said. "It's given me more professional insight."

Dr Hanan Taleb, an engineering lecturer who designed the course, said she was pleasantly surprised by how popular it was in its first year.

"So many people were willing to help us, either financially or hosting the students," Dr Taleb said, adding the students' commitment was apparent. "They came in with very high awareness already."

The course was a means for institutions to give back to the community by sharing ideas with students.

"These sorts of green initiatives are very important, not just in the region but worldwide," said Dr Taleb.


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