International students say they have relished the multicultural element of their educational experience as they reflect on their time at university in Qatar.
Erin Joy Gibson, 27, moved here five years ago after her husband was offered a job in Doha. She feels fortunate to have received a culturally-rich education. The talented student was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Honors degree in interior design with a minor in art history from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar).
“It is an interesting dynamic of mixed cultures,” says the Canadian. “Going through a creative degree and process, you share where your inspiration is from, such as your childhood memories, so it was a very eye-opening sort of experience. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the support of my husband, friends, and teachers. Studying alongside such an eclectic group of peers has been a benefit to us all in our preparation for the international realm of design. I feel honoured to have had the opportunities that I have had studying in Qatar, and know that Canada would not have had the same culturally rich educational experience on offer.”
Erin says she has developed an interest in exhibition design, as well as experiential design (creating an experience for people through space). “I grew up dancing and on stage and that gave me a sense of how you can choreograph an experience for people. One of my dreams is to work in New York and be a set designer for the New York City Ballet,” says Erin.
Fatima El-Mubarak has the same sentiments when it comes to sharing knowledge. Her family moved to Qatar a few years ago to ensure that she could be afforded a high-level of education. She was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering, with a minor in political science and mathematics from Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ). The 20-year-old believes that education is a global language and feels fortunate to have learned so much from the cultural diversity around her.
“Being part of Qatar Foundation, I had the privilege of travelling on a service trip to educate children in Indonesia who were forever grateful to us for visiting their small village through Reach Out to Asia. Education in itself is a global language that the entire world is able to recognise despite all the differences, and QF exemplifies this concept perfectly,” she said.
Fatima, who was born in Sudan but grew up in Saudi Arabia, plans to complete her PhD in political science in the future, before returning to her homeland. “I dream of achieving better policies in Sudan so that it can become more than a developing country,” she says. “My parents moved from Saudi Arabia in order for me to receive the best education that the region has to offer.”
Other students who grew up in Qatar also believe that the multicultural environment helped enhance the overall learning experience in classrooms, and facilitated a stimulating exchange of thoughts and ideas. Farzaneh Habib Salami, 30, feels she has been able to exchange ideas and learn from other students during her courses. She holds a Master’s degree in Islamic finance from Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies.
“It is good to know different people, from different countries and different cultures. For me, I got a lot of benefit out of it. It was a really interesting programme. It gave me the ability to challenge ideas, to discuss them and to think critically,” says Iranian-born Farzaneh.
“I want to thank His Highness Sheikh Hamad and Her Highness Sheikha Moza for making it easy for us to study the most rare and useful subjects so close to home. I hope that my experience will be a motivation to others and for myself to continue our higher studies.”
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