Exchange Student Profile: Catherine Nobles Johnson
Catherine Johnson is an exchange student from Georgetown University in Washington DC. She hails from Indianapolis, Indiana and is a Junior at the School of Foreign Service. She is currently on an exchange program to SFS-Q and shares with us her experiences in Qatar so far and how she finds this new Georgetown experience in the Middle East very unique to what she had anticipated.
Why did you choose to Qatar in particular?
I wanted to be able to continue Arabic in a place that would allow for me to learn Arabic but would not be an Immersion experience. Because I am concentrating on the Middle East within my CULP major, I really wanted to study abroad in the region, but I didn’t want to go to Jordan or Egypt. SFSQ was perfect for me because I can be exposed to Arabic but take classes outside of Arabic that relate to my major and count for requirements. I was intrigued by the idea of coming here to Education City for the chance to meet lots of new people and experiencing life in Doha.
How do you find the Academic Environment in Education City different from what you experienced in the US?
The classes are smaller, there’s more intentionality on the part of the teachers in their relationships with students. There’s certainly a higher degree of institutional support for students. There’s a wide range of interesting extra-curricular and academic opportunities, and the course offerings are more concentrated on the Middle East.
What are your favorite places in Doha?
I really like Katara and the Souq. I’ve enjoyed walking around both places in the evenings to get dinner with friends and during the afternoons and taking pictures. The weather has been so nice (so far!), and it’s been great to spend time exploring outside EC.
How did you find the people you’ve met in Education City so far?
I love the people I’ve met since I’ve been here, and it’s been great to get the chance to meet people from other schools in EC. Everyone at Georgetown has been so nice and so welcoming, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them. It’s cool for me because I’ve been able to hang out with people I’ve met from SFSQ, but I’ve also gotten to know the group of exchange students this semester from Texas A&M, which has been really nice, to have people sort of going through the same experience of being here on a different exchange program.
What has been the most difficult part about being an exchange student here?
Being friends with Hamza Iqbal. Challenge numero uno, fo sho.
In all seriousness, though, I think it’s only been challenging for me in finding my place here because, at school, I’m not a part of a real ‘study abroad program.’ Having to navigate on my own, though, really hasn’t been terribly difficult; it’s just a different study abroad experience from others that I’ve had. I am really sad to think about leaving this place and the people I’ve met here, but I will definitely be glad to get home and see my family in May.
Your advice to visiting students from main campus? Students from SFSQ going to DC?
Advice to students from main campus: don’t underrate this program. I think SFSQ gets under-sold on main campus and gets a bad reputation on main campus because it’s, for Arabic students, not really an immersion program and because people don’t understand the benefits of being in Doha. I hope that I can help to overturn some of these stereotypes and concerns that people have, because I have loved being here and I can’t imagine a better way to have spent this semester. Doha is awesome—it’s not boring!—and the chance to meet other students (from SFSQ) who are sort of doing the same thing but, obviously, in a very different place has been so interesting and has been such a valuable experience.
Advice to students going to DC: do it! You’ll have lots of fun, though it will be different (and the living arrangements will definitely not be as nice as they are here!). But I really would encourage people who are considering studying abroad on main campus to go because it’s a fantastic opportunity to experience life in DC, get a taste of the ‘other’ Georgetown, and meet tons of new people. And, of course, if you’re going to be in DC next year, please let me know because I would love to show you around DC and be helpful in any way I can be!