Why I Chose To Study Abroad In Qatar

Madi Alexander is a a student at Oklahoma City University and an official API Student Blogger. Madi is studying abroad with API this spring in Doha, Qatar.

The Arab Spring, the series of protests and uprisings in the Middle East, has been widely televised and anyone not living under a rock should have some basic knowledge about the civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Starting Tunisia in December 2010, the protests have spread to over fifteen countries in the Middle East. The Arab Spring has been responsible for the ousting of Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, and Gaddafi in Libya. Additionally, there has been civil unrest in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement was partially inspired by the Arab Spring.

I depart for Qatar in just a few days and with the wave of protests across the region, I am often asked why I would choose to spend nearly five months in the Middle East. The Arab Spring spread like wildfire across the Middle East and North Africa, so it appears to most people that there is nothing stopping the attitude of rebellion from reaching Qatar.

This begs the question – will the Arab Spring reach Qatar?
While I cannot predict the future, I can say that with a fairly high degree of certainty that there will not be any protests or uprising in Qatar. Certainly none that would overthrow the government. Here’s why:

First, the government does not oppress the people of Qatar. Never mind that only about twenty-percent of the population is actually Qatari. Women are allowed to drive, vote, and hold public office. Freedom of religion is allowed. The constitution grants freedom of speech and freedom of the press. More importantly, the government recognizes that the people have these rights. Al-Jazeera’s headquarters are located in Doha and they broadcast controversial opinions, especially in regards to protests. In a recent interview, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh al-Thani said that the Qatari government is working with and listening to the concerns of the people.

Second, the economic standing of Qatar is remarkably stable. Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world at $179,000. Perhaps the most substantial figure is the unemployment rate – 0.5 percent. When the protests in Egypt began, they were driven heavily by the unemployed youth. Of Egyptian youth ages 15 to 24, a staggering 25 percent of the youth population was unemployed. In Qatar, the youth unemployment rate is around 1 percent. Qatar has a steady economy and the population has little reason to revolt for economic purposes.

Third, the Global Peace Index ranked Qatar as the twelfth safest country in the world. The rankings are based on the number of external and internal conflicts fought, political instability, likelihood of violent demonstrations, potential for terrorist acts, etc. Qatar is one of the most peaceful nationals overall and is the most peaceful nation in the Gulf Region.

When I am living in Qatar, there will be little concern for protests, revolutions, or civil unrest. Safety should always play a part in deciding where to study abroad, which is exactly why I chose to go to Qatar. The country is incredibly secure and there is little threat of a revolution. My safety in Qatar will not be jeopardized, which is one of the main reasons I chose to study abroad in Qatar.

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  1. I found your post very interesting. I am a doctoral student at Walden University and I live in the U.S. We are studying global trends/issues in adult education now and just finished an assignment that included viewing videos of personal perspectives from people who have experienced various levels of learning communities within their culture. One of the countries represented in the videos included Qatar. What I learned form the video was that Qatar is trying to move their curriculum forward through research. Teaching students critical thinking and problem solving skills is a sharp contrast to the past, where more emphasis was placed on memorizing the information without opportunities for “hands-on” experience. This is similar to our goals in the U.S. In nursing education, teaching critical thinking skills and problem-solving techniques is paramount. We also have recognized the limitations of class lecture and utilize simulation as a learning modality to give students the opportunity to obtain “hands-on” experiences. Of course, this did not happen overnight. As in Qatar, any changes to any part of a curriculum take time.

    Qatar has a school report card evaluation system which monitors the performance of both the students and the school, which is publicly published. They consider this transparency to be important for the students, parents, educators, as well as society. They use the results as a barometer to assess how Qatar’s education system compares to other international countries. It also allows Qatar to use self-reflection as a means to develop strategic educational plans. I would like to transplant some of the Islamic values of education to my own culture. To them, education is more than gaining information. It is something they consider a necessity, “to be a good learner, a good person and to be able to contribute something to society; they want to give back and to make a contribution to the world they live in”. This is in contrast to the U.S., where students focus more on how much they will take (in the form of a salary) and not on how much they will give back.

    I hope you have a safe journey and enjoy your stay in Qatar.

  2. Madi Alexander says

    Hi Gina,
    Even in the short time that I have been in Qatar, I can already see that the education system puts more emphasis on concepts and research, as opposed to memorization. Most of my professors have said that they care more about us being able to analyze theories and history, not memorize dates and mundane facts. They also have told us that class time will be used for guest speakers, seminars, workshops, discussions, and student presentations. In the U.S., my classes are usually lectures. Also, professors at QU definitely recognize that memorization does no good for anything besides an upcoming test.

    For those students who have matriculated to QU, they are required to take classes that are part of a “critical thinking package.” For any degree, students have to take critical thinking electives. I had not really thought about education as a way to give back to society. The education system in the U.S. definitely emphasizes the salary, not the benefit to society.

    Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed your comment.

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