Original article: www.gulf-times.com, 28th April 2011
Zeinab al Fil Jocin Abraham Nadia Merchant Bothina al-Mulla
Mariam al-Sarraj Abdulla al-Emadi Yasser Masood Mohammed Saad al-Kuwari
Life changing, unique, empowering, second home, world-class education, and diversity are among the terms used by a cross-section of new graduates from the Class of 2011 to describe Qatar Foundation’s Education City.
They are preparing for the fourth annual Senior Convocation on May 3. A total of 242 students are graduating this year, an increase of around a quarter from last year.
Almost half of the graduates are Qatari. In all, there are 155 male and 87 female graduates.
They are from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (49), Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (31), Texas A&M University at Qatar (60), Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (43), Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (45), and Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (14).
Born with a rare genetic disorder, Nadia Merchant, who is graduating from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), is a true inspiration to anyone who has ever had to overcome a challenge.
Short in stature but huge in personality, she is one of WCMC-Q’s brightest medical students. Nadia’s life experiences have become the defining driving force behind her desire to help others with similar genetic disorders and the reason why she wants to pursue a career in paediatric genetics. American Nadia of Pakistani-Indian parentage, who has lived in US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was the first and only female president of the Medical Student Executive Council in Qatar in 2007. In 2008, she was treasurer of the Council.
Nadia’s recent activities include organising a medical camp for low-income expatriate workers with minimal access to medicine. Later this year, Nadia will feature in ‘On Beauty,’ a documentary exploring public perceptions of differences, by looking at the lives of three women who have triumphed over their own physical obstacles. “If you believe in something, work hard and you can obtain it,” she says.
Nadia sums up QF as a melting pot of different cultures and expertise that provides first-class education and an infrastructure to make ambitious projects a reality.
Mariam al-Sarraj of Filipino-Palestinian parentage, who grew up in Doha, is graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar) with an Interior Design major and Art History minor.She chose to study interior design because she loves the creative side of it. Her mother let her draw on the walls as a child.“I have been given opportunities that I would not have got elsewhere,” she said while describing Qatar Foundation and Education City as life changing, unique, and a second home.
Mariam has been abroad on two art history field trips and has never had to pay for any educational materials and has benefited from financial support. She now hopes to go on to work for a creative studio.“I was able to study at a world class institute while being close to home and I feel so lucky to have been here; QF’s vision and what they stand for here is truly wonderful.”
Mariam asserts she is a completely different person than four years ago. “I have so much more confidence now -- four years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this interview.”
Qatari national Mohamed Saad al-Kuwari, who is graduating in Islamic Finance from Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), joined the programme after working in the banking sector for a decade.“There are so many students from so many different countries, I was lucky to meet people from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Oman and they were all interested in learning and becoming more knowledgeable about Islam.” Mohamed feels that his new qualification will help him in his day-to-day job.
Indian national Jocin Abraham, a native of the south Indian state of Kerala, is graduating in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ).His parents wanted him to be close to the family and to study in the region, so TAMUQ was the first choice. He has found that the student-to-professor ratio is smaller than it would be elsewhere. The smaller classes enable more one-to-one interaction with professors. At the same time, the degrees awarded at the QF universities are identical to those awarded at the main campus, which proves students’ competency. Jocin’s experience of Education City is that it has much to offer outside of education -- he attended a conference in Hawaii where he had the opportunity to present his research project.He has had more exposure to industry because there is more collaboration with industry at QF. Companies like ExxonMobil and Shell sponsor more events at QF and hence students not only learn more, but get opportunities to make valuable contacts. But his highlight has been the Leadership Conference he attended in Prague, where he gained international experience through working with 400 participants from around the world. Jocin says: “Studying at QF has given me the opportunity to exchange opinions with people from different cultures which gives me a wide range of perspective on all sorts of topics.” Jocin recalled that he benefited from QF’s active financial programme and a scholarship from TAMUQ. “My experience has transformed me from being shy to a more assertive individual. I feel that studying here has really changed my personality for the better.”In Jocin’s words, QF’s Education City offers world class education, diversity, and opportunity.
Indian national Yasser Masood, graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ) in Science & Information Systems, was living in Dubai before moving to Qatar to join Education City.Despite options to study at other world class institutes including Stanford and Harvard in the US, Yasser felt it would be a real opportunity to join a new university in the region. “The collegiate atmosphere with different universities collaborating and working side by side here is really inspiring.”
When Yasser joined CMUQ, he was one of only 11 international students at the college. In his four years, he has seen that number grow exponentially. He describes QF, and the courses on offer, as creating a benchmark for excellence in education not just in the region but globally. In his view, “Education City is like a Silicon Valley for education.”“I do not feel anywhere else in the world can offer such a collaborative environment as here, both my tutors and support staff at QF have helped me immensely and have encouraged all of us on this journey.”
For the future, Yasser is keen to explore how social media and the influx of data that is now available to people can be managed and enhanced. He is hoping that the knowledge he has gained here can be put back into the community and will benefit not only Qatar and the region, but also his home country of India.
Sudanese national Zeinab al Fil, graduating in International Politics from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, initially had plans to apply to a university in the US.The turning point was her visit to Discover Education City Roadshow, where she learnt about the opportunities for higher education in Qatar. “It was really nice to realise that I did not have to compromise on my education but could also stay near my family here in Qatar.” “I really enjoyed my time at QF as there is so much to do besides just study. The student life here is really well rounded with many extra-curricular clubs and societies that you can join. In my time here, we have launched the African Society for Georgetown, which enabled us to create a large network of students between the various branch campuses and host events that help with cross cultural understanding.”
During her time at QF, Zeinab also represented Georgetown as the president of their student government. She feels this gave her invaluable experience and kept her involved in campus wide initiatives that would bring the student body together.
“Throughout my time at QF, the one thing I felt was a real positive was the extent that the administration and student support services listened to the students. They really helped with pushing our ideas forward and creating an atmosphere where things can happen.”
Zeinab feels that Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Qatar is one of the best places in the world to study International Politics, as Qatar plays a high profile role in foreign relations across the globe.
Qatari graduate Bothina al-Mulla from WCMC-Q has always loved anything and everything to do with living beings. After completing an ‘observership’ at a hospital in Qatar, she decided that medicine was for her.Bothina was thrilled to be accepted into WCMC-Q, “a world class university close to home,” as she describes it. She worked hard to get the grades and wasn’t always one of the top students at school. “When I realised I wanted to study medicine I decided I had to work a lot harder. I went to a school to improve my English and got into a school where the standards were very high. My motto is never give up.”Bothina has loved every minute of her time at Education City. “I have met people from all over the world and my knowledge has become so much broader as a result.”Bothina recalled she used to be a very shy girl, who never spoke at home as her two older sisters did all of the talking.
“I wasn’t very active, just did the same routine every day. That all changed when I came to Education City. I got involved with so much and developed into a confident person.” Bothina would like to specialise in women’s health and delivery (obstetrics and gynaecology) and fertility. She is passionate about helping women who are not able to conceive easily.
Bothina is planning on working in Qatar and has already been offered a position at the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, also a QF institution.
Qatari national Abdullah al-Emadi, who has loved to draw and design for as long as he can remember, is among the first group of male students to graduate from VCUQatar. He initially went to the US to study as Qatar did not offer a Graphic Design programme for men. Once VCUQatar opened the course for men, he transferred back over, as he wanted to live in his hometown, near his family and friends. Abdullah says there are more opportunities at Qatar Foundation. “There is more individual attention for students, as classes are much smaller, and materials are free,” he said. He has also benefited from the annual design conferences featuring some of the best designers from all over the world. Abdullah already has his own company, but says: “I want to give back to my country, perhaps work for the Government. Qatar needs designers and I want to contribute to the development of my country.“I have developed as a person over the past four years. I have more confidence than when I first came here.”