Tales from Abroad: Qatar

Being able to go abroad and explore places outside of your home is an experience like no other. During my experiences traveling abroad, I was always reminded of how similar people are across cultures. I find it so fascinating to see how much I have in common with people who come from cultures and backgrounds very different from my own. My most recent trip abroad took me to Doha, Qatar as a part of the Initiating Meaningful Pittsburgh and Qatar Ties (IMPAQT) program, which focuses on strengthening the relationship between Carnegie Mellon’s campuses in Qatar and Pittsburgh. It was during my experience on this trip that I had the opportunity to learn of cross-cultural similarities between people in general and university communities in particular.

Carnegie Mellon’s campus in Doha is truly a beautiful sight to see. Although the campus is smaller, the facilities, community, and environment still proudly represent the Tartan culture, just from a different side of the world. You’ll find enormous prints of the university’s logo on the building, as well as the university motto “My heart is in the work” in very large letters etched onto a wall. The campus is located in Education City, which is an area that houses a strip of Western colleges; some other colleges include Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and Cornell University. Our Doha campus is essentially comprised of one large building, however everything about it is so nice.

One of my favorite areas on their campus was the common area, which is surely not hard to miss. Known as the majlis, it’s a space where students usually hang out and hold large assemblies. A majlis is a common meeting space for people in Middle Eastern culture, decorated with soft cushions decorated with traditional patterns. Pillows and carpets with mixed colors of rose, dark orange, and yellow were found on our campus’ majlis. It was amazing to see this area was used during large university events, where most of the students and faculty would gather together and closely sit next to one another. You could easily feel the strong sense of community in this space, mainly because you’d see how everyone from the campus would interact with one another. Because of the small size of the campus, teachers and students who’ve come from various regions of the Middle East and many other parts of the world know each other very well, and were seen discussing their passions and sharing wisdom with one another. Even though the Qatar campus may be smaller than the main campus in Pittsburgh, you can still find many people there confidently sharing their passions with others. Sitting in on these conversations at the Doha campus easily helped me feel at home.

Other than making connections with people from the general CMU-Qatar campus community, I was most especially able to create close friendships with my IMPAQT team members. I loved getting to know everyone in both IMPAQT groups from the Pittsburgh and Doha campuses. I was able to learn so much from bonding with the members of IMPAQT, whether it was through singing Karaoke at K-Box in Pittsburgh to dune-bashing in the Middle Eastern deserts. I learned about the different ways in which we all have shared our passions and contributed to the overall Carnegie Mellon community. Some of us share their wisdom and educate others in the community through public art pieces and performances. Others are members of student groups and organizations such as student government, the Greek community, and the residential life community, where they are able to interact with other students on campus as leaders and mentors. We all have played very different roles on the Carnegie Mellon campus, and it was fascinating to see how similar all our goals were in enhancing the student experience and encouraging others to make the most out of their time at Carnegie Mellon. Of the many things I learned during my trip to Doha, this was certainly my biggest takeaway. I highly encourage anyone who is interested to apply for the IMPAQT program next year and experience Carnegie Mellon from another part of the world.