11/1/2009 1:01:00 PM
A plan was recently developed at the Qatar office for a student exchange program. Working on the plan are from left, summer student Ryan Tiller, Qatar exchange student Khalil Mohamed and summer student Michele Cooper.
College of the North Atlantic-Qatar student Khalil Mohamed takes in some of the scenery of Cape St. George during his student exchange program in Stephenville.
Imagine being thrust into a foreign environment with no preparation. That is what College of the North Atlantic (CNA) hopes to avoid with a new plan for a student exchange program between CNA– Newfoundland and Labrador and CNA-Qatar.
Michele Cooper and Ryan Tiller were employed at Stephenville’s Qatar office this past summer as part of an eight-week Student Work and Service Program.
“We were hired on as summer students and it developed as a student exchange development position, where we were responsible for researching past experiences of people who have gone to Qatar,” says Tiller. “We ended up interviewing a number of people who participated in the student exchange program and learned what was good and bad about it.”
Some of the individuals they spoke to include Corner Brook Campus Administrator Brent Howell and Manager of Recruitment/Enrollment Shirley Woodward-Buckle.
After numerous interviews with CNA employees from various campuses throughout the province, the plan took four weeks to compile.
“It’s a great experience,” says Cooper. “I’ve learned a lot. I didn’t know anything about Qatar at first. When I first started here I only knew the name and now I know so much about it. It’s really great. It will be good for our future and other people will learn from what we’ve accomplished – in the future they can expand on our work. If anyone else would like to do an exchange they will know more about it based on what we’ve compiled.”
“The students that were hired by the Qatar Project office were given the responsibility of developing a student exchange resource booklet,” adds Roger Hulan, information officer for the Qatar Project. “The booklet would highlight the various human and physical resources needed to successfully implement an annual student exchange program. This initiative is a commitment outlined in the comprehensive agreement between the college and the State of Qatar.”
While student exchange programs have many advantages, according to the plan, there are many obstacles faced as well.
No one can understand the obstacles better than Qatar exchange student Khalil Mohamed, who provided a first-hand account of some of the ethnic and cultural differences faced by exchange students.
“Everything is different here,” Mohamed says of comparing Stephenville to Qatar. “The first thing to come to mind – it’s a really small place. People are from a different culture here but I got used to it after the first week. I was used to it back there with local people in Qatar but didn’t have chance to work with other people or other cultures. I thought at first I would have a hard time understanding (the language) – but I found the people here easy to understand. They have been like my second family and I really like it.”
Mohamed says it took a little time to adjust to the lifestyle. “I’m doing everything – doing laundry and preparing meals. I’m used to having everything ready for me. I have to wake myself, walk to work, walk to main street. It’s not hard for me but it’s different.”
While the majority of the time the language isn’t a barrier, there were times he struggled. “Sometimes if you speak really fast I can’t understand, but 90 per cent of the time I can understand the conversation.“
The exchange program allows a student to broaden personal and education perspectives, explore and appreciate new cultures, explore new areas of study, look for future employment opportunities, acquire life skills and enables students to be more prepared for globalization.
In addition, the report identified some of the considerations to take into account including housing, healthcare, food, climate, funding, travel arrangements, dress code, religion, social support and quality of life. “There has been a new position, Coordinator-International Education, created at the Qatar campus,” says Hulan.
“This person will have the responsibility of taking the document and its recommendations and implementing it over the coming year. They will also have the task of developing student exchange opportunities with other post-secondary institutions for the students of CNA-Q.”
For more information about the CNA-Q log on to their website at www.cna-qatar.com