By Curt Yeomans
Khaleedah Johnson had a hard time picking which Middle Eastern nation fascinates her more -- Dubai or Kuwait.
Johnson, 20, a 2006 graduate of Riverdale High School, visited Dubai with her family in December 2007, but she just returned from a five-week internship at a Kuwaiti contracting company this month. She spent time during her trips exploring both countries, and their customs.
After some thought on the question, she decided she liked Dubai more than Kuwait.
"The country, from the cities, to the beaches, is beautiful," Johnson said. "Also, there is a lot of history there... It makes you think about how that area is the cradle of civilization, but it's also very modern at the same time."
Johnson points out that she has "traveled a bit," but the Riverdale native's travels have taken her to Dubai and Kuwait, as well as Ghana in Africa, the Netherlands in Europe, and Singapore in southeast Asia.
Johnson will graduate in May 2009 from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., with degrees in communication and political science, with an emphasis in international law. She is looking at Georgetown University, American University, New York University, and the University of California at Los Angeles, as options to attend for law school studies.
She left Atlanta on Wednesday for Singapore, and will spend the next three months at Nanyang Technical University in a study abroad program.
It was a quick turnaround for the Riverdale native. She returned to Atlanta earlier this month after spending more than a month working in the legal department for the First Kuwaiti Contracting Company, in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
Johnson said she was awestruck in Kuwait because it was not what she expected. Although Johnson had already been to Dubai, her perception of Kuwait was shaped by what she read, and saw, in the media.
"I thought people would be meaner to me because I was an American, and you keep hearing that people over there don't like Americans," Johnson said.
"I really thought I'd have to be on my P's and Q's while I was over there because I didn't want to offend anyone. I was actually surprised at how safe it was over there. They have a strict legal system over there so the crime rate is law.
"I could be outside at night and feel safe. I actually felt safer there than I do in Atlanta."
Johnson knew some students from college who were natives of Kuwait, but their relatives only spoke Arabic, so Johnson was limited in socializing. Still, she found her expectations were shattered by reality.
"Everyone you meet in Kuwait is so nice," Johnson said. "They all wanted to invite me to dinner as soon as they saw that I was new in their country. They made it their responsibility to make sure everything was well for me at all times."