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Qatar students engage new culture in Oman

Qatar first-years spend the weekend after midterms in Muscat, Oman. Students played games and went rock climbing and mountain biking, admiring the scenery of Oman while also learning about the lifestyle and culture of the Omanese people. (credit: Courtesy of All Around) Qatar first-years spend the weekend after midterms in Muscat, Oman. Students played games and went rock climbing and mountain biking, admiring the scenery of Oman while also learning about the lifestyle and culture of the Omanese people. (credit: Courtesy of All Around)

After a series of never ending midterms, eighty freshmen, accompanied by about fifteen faculty and staff, gathered at the Doha International Airport for what would soon be their best weekend ever. Each student present, even though a little weary after the Java midterm, gleamed with excitement.

It was amazing to see about a hundred of us move in a line towards a separate counter arranged just for Carnegie Mellon University Qatar. We finally boarded the flight to Muscat, landing at the Seeb International Airport later in the evening. Then onwards we traveled 40 kilometers by bus to the Al-Nahda Resort and Spa, Barka.

At the resort, we were assigned our “villas” in which we were to stay for the next two days. The villas housed 3–5 persons each and the roommates were grouped randomly in order to encourage interaction between every student. The resort was colossal — we used bicycles to get from one place to another. This was the best part: about fifty of us, cycling around the resort at 3 a.m. Nobody was ever in the mood to sleep, thus there were gangs of bikers all around the place.

The following morning, breakfast was arranged at the restaurant; everybody was fresh and excited about the days activities, despite last night’s sleeplessness. After breakfast, all of us gathered at the football field for a briefing after which we were divided into groups randomly to partake in various games. There was a math puzzle, a canal-building game and several other team-building activities. It was interesting to see how people, who barely knew each other, cooperated and progressed as a team. The day’s fun concluded with a lavish lunch at the restaurant with various kinds of meals, salads and of course, dessert!

Next, we assembled at the field again. We were divided into groups for archery and the “crate building” game. This game was peculiarly interesting, as we had to stand on a crate, maintaining our position and balance while adding more crates to the ‘crate tower’. Some students actually reached the maximum of nine crates, which was admittedly a very hard goal. Archery was another interesting activity, since the majority of students were trying it for the first time. Although very few hit the target, it was unanimously enjoyed. Then, for the following three hours, there was the ultimate Frisbee; a game I thought was pretty dumb before the Oman trip. My opinion soon changed though; it is an excellent game and requires good reflexes and ‘Frisbee estimation’ skills.

The next day was a big one, with all sorts of activities that most of us were attempting for the first time — rock climbing, mountain biking, Via-ferratta, village walk and even yoga for the ladies. Rock climbing and Via-ferratta were unquestionably some of the more physically challenging activities. Safety was of prime importance and the safety measures taken were impressive; many students overcame their fear of heights after the rock-climbing activity. Mountain biking was yet another activity by which the bikers were rewarded with a closer view of Oman’s natural beauty and village lifestyle, something that is rare in this part of the world. Most students completed two activities and by the time we reached the resort, it was time to pack up.

This trip was truly a memorable one; it was the greatest opportunity for each individual to interact with other students, faculty and staff. The trip was thoroughly refreshing, especially after the stressful midterm week. Such trips, along with enriching our cultural knowledge, also increase our understanding of the lifestyle of people in different nations.

I am completely sure all who went on the trip share the same view and also hope to be able to undertake such trips in future.