Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar will graduate its fourth class of 31 seniors on Saturday May 12, 2012 with 11 majoring in Culture and Politics and 20 in International Politics.
Dean Gerd Nonneman expressed his pride regarding the graduating seniors by stating, “The Class of 2012 is the perfect embodiment of the Georgetown values of the pursuit of excellence, ‘contemplation in action, and the engagement with their surrounding societies and the world at large, that is represented in such mottos as ‘Men and Women for Others’.
They take these values into their professional lives or further study, boosted by the broad-based education and specialist training in ‘International Politics’, ‘International Economics’, or ‘Culture and Politics’, that Georgetown University in Qatar has given them. They will make a difference, and the Georgetown family wishes them every success. In a series of interviews the graduates provide insights into their life before and during their Georgetown years in Qatar.
Jibin George Koshy, born and raised in Qatar and in the Indian school system of secondary education and traveled to India for college being uncertain about what he wanted to study for his career. “That’s why it was a big challenge for me to come back to Qatar,” he said. “I was used to an education system in which rote-learning is favored and questioning the professor is unacceptable.”
Embarking on an entirely new course upon his return to Qatar, Koshy began a degree in International Relations at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, a liberal arts program offering an entirely different world-view than what he learned through his business and science courses.
“This was a transformative period in my life. If I were to describe exactly how, it would resemble a laundry list. The number of international trips I’ve been on over the years is amazing. I’ve been to Germany, Poland and on many other adventures through the Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace and Community Engagement Programs at SFS-Q. The best part about Georgetown is you always learn outside the box.”
In line with the Georgetown values of Men and Women for others, Koshy describes the development of his whole self during his undergraduate degree, through, among other factors, involvement in extra-curricular activities. “I participated in HELP, the Hoya English Language Program, and tutored workers in Education City. I was also involved in student governance and even a Bollywood dance troupe.”
Additionally, Koshy is a stalwart member of the SFS-Q cricket team, which he describes as, “a band of brothers. We never had a coach, and we still don’t have a coach.” This band of brothers’ laid-back style didn’t prevent them from reaching regional finals. Their successes and failures were shared, as most members of SFS-Q’s men’s cricket team became close friends.
Commenting on the diversity at SFS-Q and the provenance of students from countries around the world, Koshy said, “The diversity factor helps you so much, because you’re interacting with anyone and everyone without ice. I learned a lot of lessons from the people around me.”
For Koshy, even the smallest moments, conversations held in passing with peers, helped develop his thinking and the ways in which he perceived the world around him. SFS-Q also brought him in contact with one of its landmark undergraduate research projects (UREP) on migrant worker conditions in Qatar that has been of such value in contributing to policy resources in the country that its funding has been renewed and expanded in each consecutive year. Koshy and his colleagues at SFS-Q are now partnering with Reach Out to Asia (ROTA) to refine the study to even greater utility, through the development of a financial curriculum geared toward migrant workers.
Johara al Thani is a soft-spoken, thoughtful young woman. Her presence immediately demands respect, in its understated signal of a keen intelligence. She is a Culture and Politics major at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. “The things I’ll remember most are the people,” she said, when asked about her experience during her four year undergraduate degree at SFS-Q. “The friends, the professors… I never would have thought it would be possible to form such strong bonds.”
Al Thani participated in a variety of extra-curricular activities during her four-year undergraduate degree at SFS-Q, broadening her experience beyond the classroom; in particular she became heavily involved, the SFS-Q HELP club providing English tutorial services to manual laborers in Qatar.
She also played a significant role in the Middle Eastern Studies Students Association’s (MESSA) first international research conference this year, helping to organize the conference involving many students from prestigious institutions around the world to SFS-Qatar.
As she looks set to enter the working world, planning to spend two years in the job market before returning to graduate studies, Al Thani has set her sights on the establishment of institutional frameworks for the fostering and preservation of culture in Doha. “There is a diminished perspective on Arabic language within this society. Parents are encouraged to teach their children English and often send them to English schools, but now a lot of people are recognizing the importance of Arabic. Language is inherent to identity.”
This love for academia exhibited by Al Johara Al Thani explains why exposure to professors and leading field experts at SFS-Q remains one of her most cherished university memories. “The careful selection of the core curriculum at SFS-Q provided me with a method of analysis and the critical thinking that made me who I am today.”
The rigorous in-class knowledge obtained during her studies at SFS-Q, allowed her to apply this theory in a variety of contexts. “We were provided with methods of how to look at the world. Using a global context, we had to examine problems from various perspectives in order to create our own coherent arguments.”
With regard to her friends at SFS-Q, she mentioned that it is an intimate community. “I came here not knowing very many people. In some ways, it was a similar experience to international students. But I got to know everyone very quickly, and I count some professors among my friends, for whom I have extremely high regard.”
Al Thani reflected on how unique it was for her to have formed such warm relationships with key mentors: “It’s not just about a paper or an exam; and that is the truly fantastic part about SFS-Q.”
Lamia Adi, a recent SFS-Q graduate, is a subtle force to be reckoned with. From a Syrian family, born and raised in Kuwait and naturalized in Canada, Adi found her way to the Gulf region, moving to Doha to study. Beginning a liberal arts degree at Georgetown SFS-Q, Adi had to convince her family to get on board. “It was a stretch for my family to be okay with it; in their eyes, it was more of an issue in terms of job opportunities. They didn’t see, at first, how I could use the degree in my career.”
Adi persevered in obtaining her objective of a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service. She described how her own way of thinking was challenged with regard to her core beliefs during her education at SFS-Q. “This taught me how to articulate myself, which is something that is important to me. I used it to reaffirm my identity as an Arab and a Muslim.” As a Culture and Politics (CULP) major, Adi completed a thesis project for her certificate in Arab and Regional Studies (CARS) on authoritarianism in the Middle East. She also took the opportunity available through the synergy of Education City to cross-register at Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University and Virginia Commonwealth University.
When asked about her goals for the future, Adi cited research as a big focus. “My career plan is to become a professor of Middle Eastern history. I owe it to the society that has given me so much.” Modest on the subject of her academic achievements, Adi looks well-prepared to pursue these objectives, having scored a phenomenal cumulative grade point average at the close of her degree at SFS-Q.
Raghda El-Meligy has a calm demeanor and sunny disposition. It’s no wonder she’s smiling these days, as she recently celebrated Georgetown Day, marking the end of a semester of coursework and with it, the completion of her bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from SFS-Q. Entering her university studies after having completed her high school education in Riyadh, El-Meligy immersed herself in Georgetown life in Qatar. “I was the first individual, male or female, to obtain higher education in my family,” said El-Meligy.
El-Meligy’s fondest memory from her time at SFS-Q was the intake week, or Frosh week as it is commonly termed. “Most of my dearest friendships were formed in that first week,” she reflected. El-Meligy believes that she received a high-quality education at Georgetown’s campus in the Qatar; speaking about her academic experience, she noted that the insights she gained only began to click for her in meaningful ways in her third and fourth years of study. “Sometimes, sophomores think they’re ready to tackle the world; I don’t, because there is so much more one should and can learn.”
However, El-Meligy’s involvements at SFS-Q weren’t solely restricted to academics; she was a member of the Senior Class Committee, she participated in two of SFS-Q’s cornerstone initiatives, the Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace trips abroad and one Community Engagement Program session. She participated in two internships, one at the American embassy in Doha and the other in Washington, D.C. for the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations, all the while gaining experience at QF Radio and Silatech.
But her favorite project is the English Enrichment Program, a joint-effort between Qatar Foundation, HSBC and Sylvan Learning, in which 80 hours of English tutoring per semester are provided to local Qatari high schools students completing university applications. “My life beyond the classroom, made possible by the generous provision of resources at SFS-Q, was incredible,” said El-Meligy. “There’s a small minority in the world that graduates with university education. We, at SFS-Q, are a minority in a minority. We have so many resources and facilities at our disposal, and so it is important that we are aware of this and give back.”
El-Meligy plans on pursuing a couple of years of work before furthering her education through graduate studies. When asked where she was planning on beginning her career path, as the academic year winds down, El-Meligy was firmly but professionally circumspect in her answer. “We’re still negotiating. Actually, this connects directly with a lot of things I’ve learned here which have made my bargaining chip stronger during my first full-time job search,” she explained. “During these negotiations, I can demonstrate that I am an attractive candidate by detailing the additional projects I’ve been involved with at SFS-Q.” According to El-Meligy, these have given her a solid background in work skills that are immediately transferable.
For Nouf Al-Thani, the opportunity to complete her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University SFS-Q has been a blessing. A prestigious institution with high standards, the Qatar campus of Georgetown University provided her with the rare opportunity to explore an academic field she found intellectually stimulating with the expertise of inspirational professors, as well as a diverse student body, in a geographic location so close to her area of study.
With graduation around the corner and her coursework on International Politics submitted, Al-Thani looks back with fondness at the focused one-on-one mentoring she received from professors for both her International Politics Honors and American Studies theses. The low student-to-faculty ratio at SFS-Q definitely enriched her education. According to Al-Thani, very rarely are students able to receive detailed constructive criticism, advice and guidance from a professional in the field to the extent that students at SFS-Q do.
Having other leading academic institutions on campus has also enriched Al-Thani’s experience. For Al-Thani, she was able to take advantage of this unique proximity by attending cross-registered classes, using the different schools’ specialized libraries, having conversations with faculty trained in other academic fields, enrolling in workshops and seminars and having conversations with students studying medicine, business, design, journalism or engineering.
Not only that, but Georgetown’s location in Qatar allowed Nouf Al-Thani to gain a deeper understanding of Middle Eastern politics. A media and arts hub, Doha’s growing broadcasting and museum scenes allowed Al-Thani to connect what she read in her textbooks to real life. Studying media’s influence on foreign policy was enhanced by a visit to Al-Jazeera’s studios and studying culture’s role in societies was augmented by trips to either the Museum of Islamic Art or Mathaf.
For Al-Thani, however, this is ultimately dependent on each student’s determination and desire to learn – but in such a stimulating environment, opportunities to explore, create and think are everywhere, pushing the frontier of possibilities for both her promising future and that of her graduating colleagues.
Salma Mousa applied to SFS-Q from a high school in Abu Dhabi offering an American curriculum. “They held a university fair, and SFS-Q was one of the booths,” she said.
Although she is the only graduate of her high school to have enrolled in an Education City university in Doha, she hasn’t regretted her decision. “I don’t think anything would have prepared me for life after university the way that Georgetown did. I’ve already entered the working world through internships, I’ve studied abroad and I’ve worked as a French tutor.”
According to Mousa, these experiences prepared her to obtain the job she currently has, working at a local NGO that examines issues related to Arab youth and unemployment. “The level of maturity I gained through my degree at Georgetown University SFS-Qatar was crucial.”
As a research assistant for Prof. Alexis Antoniades, she conducted a study on the feasibility of a monetary union in the GCC region. She also engaged in research on the effects of economic boycotts related to the recent Danish cartoon controversy, demonstrating striking trends through her analysis of related data.
“My current job requires top-level policy analysis and economic research. My ability to engage in professional research studies at the university-level gave me a definite advantage. Not only that, but the honing of my French skills through an exchange trip to Paris have come in handy, as much of our country profiles are restricted to the Maghreb region, a primarily French-speaking area containing former French colonies.”
While conquering the world of economic and policy research, Mousa also helped to establish the SFS-Q Women’s Football team and traveled to Cyprus to investigate geo-political tensions, and to the United States to consider the topic of poverty alleviation and housing.
“At SFS-Q, I developed personally and I learned from the diversity. People have such different backgrounds and views, which is something I didn’t have exposure to before I came here. Some of my best memories are of staying up until 3 a.m. debating NATO resolutions in the library, appearing on the international program The Doha Debates twice, and being interviewed by Al Jazeera and CNN; I also met international political actors, including Hillary Clinton and Thomas Friedman. People know the SFS-Q name, and they come here.”
Safiullah Taye wants to return to his homeland of Afghanistan after graduating from SFS-Q with a degree in Foreign Service. Wanting to contribute to the war-torn country of his heritage, Taye believes that his education at SFS-Q will set the stage for a meaningful role in the ongoing rebuilding efforts. When asked about the risks associated with such a move, Taye replied that he would spend some time in Doha getting prepared before returning. “I want to be academically prepared — I’m not worried about my personal safety.” This brave and humanistic orientation toward global issues is one that is highly valued at Georgetown University.
For Taye, this has translated into the holistic refinement of self through both his social and academic endeavors. “There are so many aspects to SFS-Q; the classroom experience is unrivaled in the region, and the trips we embark on are life-changing. It’s been a great experience.”
Taye believes that the SFS-Q graduate is ready for any challenges that may occur. “Getting your hands dirty with the real work of conflict resolution in the Balkans, for example, or house-construction and poverty alleviation in flood-stricken areas cannot be replicated by book-learning.”
Among the competencies Taye developed at SFS-Q are Arabic language skills, which he developed from his very first year at SFS-Q, economic analysis as an IPOL major, and debating and public speaking skills. As a striker for SFS-Q’s Men’s Football team, Taye bravely recovered from a torn ACL, remaining a key member of the university’s contribution to ‘the beautiful game.’ But it is the intimacy of the SFS-Q community of scholars, students and dedicated staff that will leave a lasting impression on Taye.
“There are some people whom I will keep in constant contact with from my days at SFS-Q; I would love to see everyone again, the colleagues I would pass in the hall, but I don’t know if I will.” Perhaps Taye will find himself reunited with the close-knit SFS-Q family at some future reunion, but in the meantime, SFS-Q has helped to provide the relationships, knowledge and skills that will last him and his graduating peers a lifetime.
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