More than just education. What makes students in Qatar decide their country of choice for higher studies

When you talk about the higher education scene in Qatar, Education City immediately comes to mind. An initiative of Qatar Foundation, the 14 square kilometre area houses some of the world’s best universities – six different American universities, one British university, one French university and one Qatari university.

In addition to Education City, Qatar offers other avenues for high school students in the country to pursue a graduate degree. These include Qatar University, Stenden University, College of North Atlantic, University of Calgary Qatar to name a few.

 The student body in Qatar is vastly diverse, and the quality of education imparted by exisiting institutes is top-notch, albeit expensive.

But is it just the “quality” that matters to students here?

Greener pastures?

For many students who have lived in Qatar their entire lives, the routine nature of existence gets young adults bored quickly. Without a variety of things to do, and a tepid entertainment scene, they either resort to smoking sheesha, eating out or watching a new movie in theatres.

Joanne Rodrigues, a 21-year-old mechanical engineer graduate, who did her schooling in Qatar, chose to pursue a graduate degree at the College of Engineering in Pune, India. The reason: “I didn’t really feel a connection to my roots in India. I had no bond to my culture.”

While for some people who were glad to leave the desert, there are others like Rhea Kurien whose heart is in Doha. Despite this, she decided to study in Lasalle College of Arts in Singapore, to experience a greater cultural diversity and independence.
“I had to learn to stand on my own two feet in university as I wasn’t at home anymore. People were different too.” She believes that while studying, an individual needs to grow as a person too but there wasn’t much scope for that to happen in Qatar for her.

I think studying abroad gives you experiences that no classroom in Qatar can provide.

“Education is not just influenced by the material we are given to learn in school. It’s more than that – it’s the environment, the people, the activities,” says Farah Menezes, a 19-year-old student who will start university in Denmark.
“I wanted to understand things from different perspectives. I think studying abroad gives you experiences that no classroom in Qatar can provide.”
When asked if she would be ‘happy’ to leave Qatar, Farah says “To be honest, I was scared to leave Qatar. I’ve been here for 19 years. I’ve seen this place go from nothing to what it is now, beautiful and inspiring.” However, Farah believes the quality of education (in all respects) and opportunities to experience different cultures would be lost if she stays in Qatar.

Other than the lifestyle in Qatar, many students in Qatar have faced challenges when finding a job. The job market in Qatar is not very kind to fresh graduates, and many have huge debts to pay off, students have said in an earlier article in JustHere.

Those staying back have contrasting views

For Shruti Iyer, who is currently doing a BBA specialist in Hospitality Management at Stenden University, staying back in Qatar was a familial choice.
Shruti, who currently interns at Qatar chamber, says “I was introduced to Qatar Chamber while volunteering during one of the hotel events, and landed up with an internship. All of this connects back to opportunities and experience my course has given me.”
“This is what I want to do and my education in Qatar helped me realise it.”

Like Shruti, there are many others of the strong opinion that Qatar has been their best decision in terms of upcoming work opportunities. Vanessa Fernandes, a 21-year-old student at Carnegie Mellon University Qatar, tells JustHere “I wasn’t sure what track I wanted to do, and in CMUQ you have to choose courses in Business Administration. However, with advice from other peers, the amazing faculty and previous courses, I decided to choose the finance track.”
Vanessa progressed on to thrive in her track and landed a research job in the university.
There’s just one setback she mentions. “The class schedule is not flexible, it’s hard to take up other activities. Moreover, we are a small community of students, and hence the number of course options are few. So if we’re interested in a particular course, it has a good chance of not being available here. We’d have to travel all the way to the main campus in US to take it.”

When you are expected to look for or invent something refreshing, in a country you’ve spent all your life in, you really have to look deep.

For Marika Mascarenhas, a VCUQ student, the choice came easy. “It was a scholarship offer that first prompted me to seriously consider staying in Qatar. But quite honestly, I did not need a lot of convincing.”  After all, she considers the quality and resources of education served in Education City as “unparalleled”.
Marika has been in in Qatar all her life. While some students might get tired of the mundane in their everyday lives, Marika says, “When you are expected to look for or invent something refreshing, in a country you’ve spent all your life in, you really have to look deep. It has helped me pay better attention to detail.”

Making students Qatar ready

Muneera Spence, Chair of the Graphic Design program at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar, believes that students who study abroad develop a very western way of looking at things. “Their ability to contexualise the education so that they understand the region in relation to the world is very weak.” She believes this is because they develop a very western way of looking at things.
While talking about the Qatari students, she says that the students that study here as opposed to those that come back after university are actually “Qatar ready” in the very sense of the two words. Their knowledge of the Arab region is heightened and their relational experience between global and local issues and connections is enhanced.

She concludes her insight on the matter saying the entertainment scene in Qatar is getting better every year. Furthermore, the social life within each university is very good. She says, “I think it’s healthy for the students to grow and develop here.”

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