Feeding on Culture
I grew up as an expatriate in Saudi Arabia, and feel that the opportunity to experience other cultures is one of life’s best gifts. We gain so much from people with different backgrounds, and by visiting other countries: there’s the food, the holidays, the food, the customs, the food, the historical sites, landscape, and beaches and, of course, the food. It seemed natural for my daughter, Madi, to choose Qatar University as her first study-abroad experience. My family and those I grew up with were thrilled. After all, Qatar is politically stable, has a well-developed infrastructure, is progressive by Arab standards, plus I have friends in the region.
Avoid Status Quo
When Madi was considering locations for her study-abroad adventure, I gave her one stern piece of parental advice. “Go somewhere that makes an impression on your resumé.” I wanted her to go somewhere that won’t reflect on her as just a spoiled American teen on a vacation disguised as education. I encouraged her to think outside the box, and consider places such as Turkey, Poland, Egypt, or Croatia.
The Reward of Risk
Madi chose Qatar University. I am comfortable with the political climate in Qatar. I warned my daughter about cultural respect, and to be wary of the intentions of men. I laughed when she asked about getting an international drivers license. But, I never considered some other dangers. On Monday there was a tragic fire at a shopping mall in Doha, where the students frequent. Most of the deaths were children in a daycare center. It brought back a sickening feeling — we live in Oklahoma City, where the Murrah Federal Building bombing killed 19 children in the daycare center in 1995. I was angered by initial reports that ultra-wealthy Qatar, with such extravagant shopping malls, had a malfunctioning sprinkler system and a muted alarm system.
Life is Dangerous
This mall fire in Qatar got me thinking… How much danger do we subject ourselves to for the experience of travel and cultural adventure? A great deal. Life is dangerous, wonderfully dangerous. Camping in the desert is a danger. Food poisoning is a danger. Ferry trips are a danger. And, clearly the biggest danger of all is traffic. Adventure worldwide is full of danger, yet I encourage my student, and others, to take a risk for the sake of adventure and cultural enlightenment. Don’t get caught up in the lack of safety regulation as you set out on life’s adventures. Budget hotels, local taxis, sketchy food handling, even the thrilling zip lines – they all present some danger. We can’t just stay home to avoid danger. So, seek adventure abroad and bring your new perspective on the world back home. You will help tie the world together, and make it a better place.