While I did not have a traditional “study abroad” experience, I have learned a lot about Dubai after living there for 6 years from 2003 to 2009. Dubai’s universities are fairly new compared to established universities in the U.S., however a growing number of universities are starting to work on study abroad programs so that college students from all over the world can come to Dubai while studying. One of the few programs I have heard of is at The American University of Dubai, in Dubai, which you can read about over here.
Dubai has become an international attraction, and is fun to visit especially if you want to go during the winter months when it is not over 100 degrees outside (only a couple months out of the year have cooler weather and rain). I would not advise visiting during the summer as temperatures are high and high humidity levels outside make it impossible to be anywhere without air conditioning. Summers are also the time when most people leave Dubai to travel back home to their native countries, so it is fairly empty compared to the winter time when more tourists are visiting. Whatever time of the year you decide to visit, be sure to dress in layers as the malls and indoor places are extremely cold, while outside weather tends to be warmer. Also bring more conservative clothing (long sleeves and long pants) as it is seen as offensive to some Emaratis (locals) to wear short clothing that reveals a lot of skin (such as shorts and tank-tops). Sunglasses are also a must!
If you are looking to experience “traditional” Middle Eastern culture, you need to plan ahead to visit museums and places where traditional art and buildings are preserved,such as the Dubai Museum that shows the lifestyle of the Emaratis living in Dubai before the discovery of oil. This type of history is hard to find elsewhere as the rest of Dubai is a built up city, much like any city in the Western world. Dubai does bring an interesting experience of meeting people from various countries and cultures from all over the Arab, Western, and Asian world, and most people are very friendly.
You do not need to speak or understand Arabic interact with people in Dubai as most speak English, however it will come in handy to know a few Arabic phrases especially if you will be taking a taxi cab around or if you will be visiting the traditional souk (market). If you are visiting Dubai, I would suggest that you visit both places of culture as well as the iconic/tourist places such as the malls (Dubai Mall & Ibn Battuta Mall especially), the Burj al-Arab, Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Marina, The Atlantis and Palm Resort, and all the other sites Dubai has to offer. Although there are tons of attractions in Dubai, these in particular stand out in my memory as beautiful places, as much as they are modern buildings.