- Wendy Brendzy was following her dream of living in an exotic locale when she took a job at College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) international campus in the Middle East State of Qatar.
She says reality has proven even sweeter than the dream.
“I love it here! I love my work, and I really love the time off,” Wendy exclaimed. “In the summers, we often do some sort of trip on our way home. We went to Singapore one year, to the Philippines another, and Paris and Switzerland in another.”
The Burnaby, British Columbia (B.C.) native and her husband, Ryan, were travelling on a six-month backpacking tour in Central and South America when she got the call from CNA for a job interview.
“I actually did my interview for this job from a bus station in Peru,” Wendy laughed. “That’s kind of fitting.”
The job is teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at College of the North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q), located in Doha - the capital city.
“This job is very rewarding. Currently, I do one-on-one and group tutoring. It’s nice to work with individual students … I really see their progress as they learn English then go on to study (Engineering, Health Sciences, Business or IT) here at the campus,” said Wendy. “They study with us in their second language, and for some, their third or fourth language.”
Life in Doha
Doha is very cosmopolitan, with a film institute (that has worked with celebrities such as Robert DeNiro, Salma Hayek and Kanye West); a music academy and philharmonic orchestra; world-class sporting events (ATP World Tour tennis tournaments, Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix, PGA European Tour tournaments, WTA Tour Tennis Championships, the 2006 Asian Games, and the upcoming the World Cup in 2022); exquisite cuisine from around the world; and, the finest in luxury services.
Many Canadians, Americans, Asians and Europeans, among other global nationalities, live and work in Doha, be they teachers, engineers, labourers, health services providers or other, in just about every realm of industry. Education is one of the largest examples.
Qatar has made education one of the several pillars upon which it has based its Qatar National Vision 2030 – a strategic plan for the development of its country into a knowledge-based economy. Several world-class institutions have been hand-picked, including Texas A&M, Georgetown University, Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Calgary, Carnegie Mellon and CNA, and have developed their own institution, Qatar University.
Wendy’s husband, Ryan, teaches at Qatar University in its English Foundation program.
“He is an EFL instructor as well. He really enjoys it and has completed two Master’s degrees while working there,” said Wendy. “There is a lot of opportunity for professional development here in Doha. My workplace alone provides a multitude of opportunities with conferences, presenting and workshops. In addition to teaching, there are projects and professional opportunities at CNA-Q – they conduct observations and give feedback – it makes you a better teacher.”
With their free time, the Brendzys are never stuck for finding something to do. She says the people are friendly and it’s a very social environment.
“If you’re open and social you can meet a lot of people and do a lot of things. My husband plays hockey with people of all nationalities … There are free tennis and fitness classes here on campus. We have a pool and soccer fields,” said Wendy. “And outside the campus, there are so many great festivals and activities. So much to do here!”
The couple has been together for 18 years, and has always made experiencing other cultures a priority in their lives.
“I’ve always loved travelling and wanted to explore working abroad. After completing my BEd at Simon Fraser University in B.C., I went to teach in China for six months at a BC international school. After that I knew I wanted to work abroad again, but didn’t know where,” said Wendy.
“When we visited my husband’s aunt and uncle in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2008, we knew this was what we were looking for.”
She completed her Master’s degree in Canada in 2011, and started applying for jobs for September 2012 in Qatar and the UAE, giving themselves a bit of time to do some travelling.
“We thought that this transition might be a good time and opportunity to take a little break from work so that we could travel. So from January to June 2012, we explored Central and South America,” said Wendy.
They then found themselves packing up their lives and moving to Qatar in September 2012, and they haven’t looked back.
“The adjustment was actually pretty easy. There’s not a big culture shock, as everyone speaks English. I’m working and living with Canadians, though I have gotten to meet people of many nationalities – Doha is so multi-cultural.”
Travel and family
With regard to their travel priorities, the Brendys have found that working in Doha – known as the Gateway to the World – has been very advantageous.
“We’ve done a lot of travelling from here. We been so excited about all places to travel that are just a short flight away. We’ve been to Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, UAE, Greece, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, the Maldives and the Philippines to name a few,” Wendy recalled. “Being here has also given me the opportunity to travel with my parents. On my semester breaks, we met in Italy one year and Denmark another year. They were fantastic trips and will be lasting memories for us. I don’t think we would have had that chance if I weren’t working over here.”
Three years ago, the couple had their first child in Doha.
“I had him here at Doha’s Al Ahli Hospital – it was great,” said Wendy. “The medical system here is excellent. When we had Noah, so many people passed along clothes, toys and other baby items. There are great supports and resources for families and lots of things for children to do. There are parks, playgrounds, pools and a wonderful new library. And in the complex, Noah gets to play with the other kids.”
The couple decided to follow the trend in Doha and hired a nanny.
“We have a nanny who does an amazing job of taking care of Noah, and even helps with the cleaning, cooking and laundry. It makes life really easy,” said Wendy with a smile. “There are so many luxuries here … it’s definitely a selling point.”
In terms of accommodations, they’ve had the best of both worlds. When they first arrived they lived in an apartment complex provided by CNA-Q for singles and couples, and now they live in one of the gated communities in a three-bedroom villa, provided by CNA-Q for those with children.
“I just can’t say enough about this place. We have made some wonderful memories,” Wendy said, adding that they recently bought a boat to enjoy the beautiful turquoise water of the Arabian Gulf. “Life here has been good to us. I always wanted to live in a place with palm trees. This place has that and so much more. It really is a dream come true.”
Public Relations Specialist
Qatar Project Office
College of the North Atlantic