Spring Break ’12 – To Aggieland and Back

It was the 2nd of March 2012. Spring Break had just started and a group of 13 students from Texas A&M University at Qatar were about to make a journey to their main campus nearly 8000 miles away, where the whole group had never been. For most of us on the trip, the Spring Leadership Exchange Program was our first trip to the United States and we were not really sure what to expect upon arrival in Texas. We were made to stay and extra 3 hours at the airport till everyone cleared immigration. This time was used for us to get to know each other and even though most of us met around university, we rarely had time to interact. Hana’s packet of tasteless Twizzlers and Salem sharing his personal ghost story experiences were the highlight of the evening. After the extra 3 hour stay at the airport till everyone cleared immigration, we left on a shuttle to College Station only to head back to the Houston International Airport a few minutes later so that Alya could get her phone that she had accidently left behind.





Once that was done, we headed off again. The 2 hour shuttle ride to College Station put most of the students to sleep as most were exhausted from travelling the whole day. We were greeted at our hotel, the Hawthorn Suites very warmly by a few of the SLEP students from College Station/Galveston and instantly clicked.




The “Welcome to Texas” cookie that the Spring Leadership Exchange students had waiting for us at the hotel, upon arrival in College Station, Texas.             




Over the next few weeks both groups attended leadership workshops and toured both College Station and Qatar together. The trip gave most of the Aggies from Qatar the chance to view life on main campus. The sheer enormity of the College Station campus astounded many of us. Coming from a campus of just over 500 students, restricted to a single building the size of main campus did help put things into perspective and gave us a tiny glimpse of how most universities in the United States look like and run.


Just another night at the Hawthorn Suites




Another thing that most of the Qatar Aggies had the opportunity of seeing was the spirit of Aggieland. It is something that most students at the Qatar campus hear about, but due to the small scale of events I have to say that the actual effect is not felt. College Station, being a small college town, appeared a warm, cozy city to live in. One of the things that stood out was seeing maroon everywhere, like literally everywhere. It was also fun to find out that most of the people, like the waitresses, chefs and other people who passed by had at some point either studied in Texas A&M, or had relatives, or knew someone who had studied in Texas A&M. Some of the people we met even had generations attending Texas A&M. The loyalty and dedication to the university amazed most of us.




At the Association of Former Students

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TAMUQ group posing with a statue of the Aggie Ring


Although, most of the students could say that the trip did not stress on an extensive amount of leadership activities, I would say that the whole group definitely agrees that the Texas A&M University students from College Station, Galveston and Qatar did indeed exchange cultural opinions and the like, to a great extent. Most students would break off into random groups, if not individual, and have deep conversations about religion, life, studies and the future. I personally found the conversations priceless and will possibly treasure for the years to come.             



Group posing after building a sandcastle at the beach near Messaieed 




However, the group did have fun moments, too. The students did get time to tour and enjoy the best of what College Station and Qatar had to offer. Sand-bashing, swimming in the sea, football (soccer) on the beach, nights at the Souq, Dhow trip, and random trips to frozen yoghurt shops were just a few of the fun events that the group did as a whole. Most of the Qatar students learned how to country dance at Harry’s and this turned out to be an interesting, new experience as well.



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(Left) Sharing a cup of gelato with Lety because she didn’t. (Right) Outside the museum of modern art (Mathaf)

I would definitely urge any student planning to apply for the Spring Leadership Program, be it in College Station, Galveston or Qatar to go ahead. The experience is unique and invaluable and is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It has given me the chance to grow as a person, and make friends with some of the most amazing people from halfway around the world.




Now back to life in America and Qatar, the students who took part in the program find their day-to-day activities mundane and sometimes wonder if what they got to experience was only a dream. Some even find it wonder how they got through their days without hanging out with their friends from the sister campuses. Having experienced the cultures of either country learnt a lot about the way of life a few are even inclined to spend a semester studying abroad.




Here’s to me hoping that everyone keeps in touch and remain as close as they did during the trip. I’m glad that I got to meet the people I did during the trip and am definitely looking forward to meeting up with everyone once I head back to College Station during Fall 2012, where I plan to do a semester abroad. For now goodbye and stay safe.




Cause a typical night has to end with everyone sitting on the ledge at the Corniche sipping Karak and talking.

by Mohammed Ziyan Sheriff  Mar 21st, 2012
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