International Exchange Students Spend a Semester Studying in Education City Universities


Photo by Urooj Kamran Azmi

NU-Q is expecting its first group of exchange students from the Evanston campus in Fall 2014, said Greg Bergida, Director of Student Affairs at Northwestern University in Qatar. But other Education City campuses are already hosting their own international exchange students this spring.


Currently, all undergraduate universities in Education City, with the exception of Weil Cornell Medical College and Northwestern, have exchange students from their main campus as well as other international universities spend a semester in Qatar.


“My expectations have been fulfilled by the reality [of Doha.] The infrastructures are very impressive and the campus is great”, said Martin Carceles a junior at Sciences Po Lyon University in France, who is spending his semester at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.


Carceles is one of two students who have arrived at GU-SFSQ from Sciences Po Lyon, a French higher education institute that focuses on social sciences. As a junior at Po Lyon, Carceles, it is mandatory for all students to spend the whole year abroad. After spending the previous semester in Granada, Spain, Carceles was headed to Egypt. But due to the political situation in Egypt, his school offered him to go to Qatar instead.


Mehdi Haddou, the other student from Sciences Po Lyon, said it is a great experience to come from France to an American school in an Arab country. Despite the cultural differences between France and Qatar, he said that he did not experience culture shock.


Twenty students from the Texas A&M University at College Station, four from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and two from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond have also arrived at their respective campuses in Qatar from their main campuses in the United States, according to the student affairs department of each university.


“It definitely helps having a big group of students from your main campus with whom you can hang out and talk about things you miss from home,” said Patrick Odenborg, a sophomore exchange student who is studying mechanical engineering at TAMU-Q. “The way I cope with culture shock is to hang out with the other exchange students.”


Odenborg came to Qatar hoping to become fluent in Arabic, experience the local culture and learn about the oil and gas industry in the region. He has been successful in accomplishing the latter two, but has found it difficult to learn Arabic because most of the Arabic-speaking students are fluent and converse in English, said Odenborg.


“My largest class this semester has about 40 students. This was the size of my smallest class last semester (at main campus),” added Odenborg, comparing the two campuses. “Another difference is the amount of money the university spends on the students. It seems like over in the States the university is always looking for ways to charge you more, while here it seems like the students receive many things for free”.


The exchange program gives students from the home campus a chance to experience the culture in the Middle East, which is very important in terms of politics and economics, said Bergida.


“Approximately five to seven students is what we expect (from Northwestern’s Evanston campus in fall.) Of course, it depends on the number of students who apply and are qualified and are selected to come,” he added.

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