Commentary: How Qatar has made me a citizen of the world

As an Egyptian national who was raised in Qatar, the current regional crisis is hugely concerning. I am just one of the hundreds of thousands of people who find their native and adopted countries on opposite sides of an escalating dispute — and on the wrong end of a hastily imposed, illegal blockade.

It is a situation that is completely at odds with the life experience I gained growing up in Doha, Qatar’s capital, where people from all over the world live and work together in a modern, dynamic metropolis. And, in many ways, my life as a student within Qatar Foundation’s Education City provided a microcosm of this cosmopolitan environment.

Education City hosts eight branch campuses of elite international universities. It is home to students from more than 60 countries, happily co-existing regardless of ethnicity, background and nationality. My time there transformed me as a person and as a professional — and I now realize that the opportunities I was given were so much more valuable than just a university education.

I remember vividly the moment it struck me that I’d entered a new phase in my life. I had just enrolled to study chemical engineering at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ), and Qatar Foundation organized a trip to Italy for freshmen to take part in an “introduction to leadership” course. So now, not only was I leaving my adopted home of Qatar and my family to travel abroad on my own for the first time, but I was doing so with a group of young people who I’d never met and who, I’m sure, were all as equally shy and nervous as I was.

Thankfully, this sense of strangeness was fleeting — and that initial introduction to my fellow students who I was to spend the next four years with was the beginning of a wonderful multicultural journey. It would see me not only learn about chemical engineering but also have the confidence to branch out, develop new skills and carve out a rewarding career for myself here in Qatar – the place I call home.

Education City is an incredibly exciting melting pot of ideas and people, where the value of interaction, cultural understanding and bridge-building is as important as the university course you sign up for.

As my studies progressed, I was blessed by the opportunity to meet with other young people from all over the world. This sense of a global community drove me to run for student government. I progressed from a timid first year student, to the President of the Student Body Government. I met with counterparts from the United States, Mexico and elsewhere; an experience made all the more fascinating as we were the only Arab representatives present. This was a wonderful feeling, to think we at college level were being supported to represent Qatar and the wider region.

On campus, all of the students at Education City would meet and listen to each other’s issues. We would discuss what it means to be a young person in the Arab world. We learned how students from other countries viewed the challenges in the Middle East. Even though we grew up thousands of miles apart, at the end of the day we are all the same, and we all embraced the same hopes for our futures.

This is one of the things that makes Qatar Foundation unique. It exposes its young people to the wider world. It encourages them to solve problems through dialogue, and it provides the tools to do so. This is also the Qatar I know.

The culture of innovation and inclusion that is propagated at Qatar Foundation shows Qatar in its true light – a progressive nation that encourages young, inquisitive people to become mature citizens of the world. It is a place that fosters intellectual growth and a global mindset – values that cannot be weakened by blockades and embargoes.

Mahmoud graduated from Texas A&M University at Qatar with a bachelor of science in chemical engineering. She now works in the media industry in Doha, Qatar.

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