Alumni Profile

Trip of a lifetime (Kyle Sampson, Jennifer Whelan, Carl Perham, Sarah Pope)

Kyle Sampson , Jennifer Whelan, Carl Perham and Sarah Pope
Kyle Sampson , Jennifer Whelan, Carl Perham and Sarah Pope
In what can only be described as a trip of a lifetime, four lucky CNA alumni made the journey from Newfoundland and Labrador to the State of Qatar. The graduates were chosen from numerous applicants to attend the 10-year anniversary celebrations at College of the North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q), hosted by the campus and the State of Qatar.
                Graduates submitted essays outlining why they should be chosen for the trip, vying for the four available seats to the A Decade of Excellence celebrations. Once selected, they made the 24-hour trek from St. John’s, NL to Doha, Qatar. The following is a question and answer session with the lucky alumni.
Kyle Sampson
Kyle Sampson of St. John’s is a two-time graduate of CNA, first from the Business Administration and then the Programmer Analyst program, both in 2006. He is employed at Eastern Health as a systems/computer support specialist. He feels the trip has affected him deeply and he hopes to return to Qatar as soon as possible.
Q: What were your thoughts upon arrival?
A: The first thing that we experienced leaving the plane was the heat. We had spent seven hours inside that plane at a cool air conditioned temperature of about 16 degrees to an instant 42-45 degrees, plus humidity wave of air. It wasn’t even daytime. We had a shuttle bus to get to the airport for our visa process and arrival welcome. Everyone was very kind and willing to help. It was a service like no other, and that is no longer available in Canada.
I couldn’t believe I was finally there in Doha. I instantly noticed the way people dressed and how I wasn’t prepared, as when I left St. John’s it was 10 degrees. Then, we pulled up to the hotel. I was reminded of the Plaza in Central Park, NYC but even more elegant with shiny marble and exotic lighting. We were welcomed and had a quick check-in. My room was 716 on the 7th floor. I was stuck for words as I opened the door, I noticed the fine mahogany wood finishes, marble tile bathroom, deep soaker tub, king sized bed. I walked directly to the balcony and took in the night view of the bay. I connected to the Wi-Fi and messaged Carl, Sarah and Jennifer “is this real?”. I didn’t sleep the first night at all. I actually watched the sun rise over the Persian Gulf.
Q: What did you think of the celebrations that took place?
A: ‘Go big or go home’ comes to mind when I think back about the graduation and the gala. One thing I didn’t expect was the VIP front row seats and welcome at the graduation. CNA was very proud to be able to send over four alumni, and it showed. We even had a mention in the President’s opening speech. It has been seven years since my graduation and I felt the same excitement in the air from the graduates and their families as I did during my time.
Q: How would you describe your trip overall?
A: I have stayed in five-star hotels and resorts in Mexico, Punta Cana, NYC Times Square, and Toronto. There is no comparison to the Four Seasons Resort and Spa in Doha. There is no comparison to the weather, beaches, food and infrastructure in Doha. I will always be indebted to CNA-Q, the Alumni Association and the State of Qatar for providing me with that experience. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been on a dedicated mission to return as an employee and bring my young family over to experience a life style in Doha that I cannot provide here.
The city was stunning. The infrastructure from the streets to the finish on every building’s ceiling was finished in such detail and perfection. The people were so positive and happy. Everyone has such beautiful complexion and apparel.
Since I returned, I find myself evaluating my life, where I currently work, how much I earn, my potential to expand my career, where I live and how the climate really affects my standard of living here on the east coast of Canada. Experiencing what Doha and CNA-Q have to offer, the welcoming I received and the send-off I was given from the staff and people of Doha, has me determined to get back, and get back soon. The trip overall was absolutely perfect. I can’t rate it on a scale from 1 to 10 as it was off the charts. It was a life changing experience, one I will never forget.
Jennifer Whelan
Jennifer Whelan, of Smith’s Harbour in central Newfoundland, graduated from the Office Administration (Executive) program in 2008. She is an administrative assistant and business counselor at the Community Business Development Corporation in Baie Verte and says she was honoured to have been able to experience the Qatar culture, describing it as nothing short of spectacular.
Q: What type of activities did you participate in during the nine days, and what are your thoughts on them?
A: We visited one of the souqs where we went to a restaurant with staff and other guests. The food was different than what I’ve been used to but was really good. We sat around and chatted and listened to some Arabic music before we returned to the hotel. The tour of the Museum of Islamic Art was fascinating! The facility was breath taking. All of the architecture is just mind boggling – the city tour and the visit to The Pearl is just too much for me to even explain – it’s just magnificent! My favourite would have to be the dune bashing and getting to see the camels. We also toured the CNA-Q campus which was phenomenal. They have the state-of-the-art facility there with top-of-the-line training equipment. I was thinking WOW! How I would love to be an instructor in a facility like this!
Q: What did you think of the celebrations that took place?
A: The 10-year gala event was certainly spectacular. They went all out in celebrating. It was nice to mingle with others before being seated. A couple people came up to me and said, “You’re one of the alumni right? What do you think of Qatar so far?” I was asked this question often but I think they knew the answer before they asked because my face was glowing with enthusiasm and anticipation. 
Past and current members of CNA-Q were on stage for the ceremonial seal of the Decade of Excellence book. The book was placed in a time capsule and was sealed in front of us with a slow release of sand. I looked around at the other members that were instrumental in the implementation of CNA-Q and it was very emotional. I felt their sense of pride.
Q: How would you describe your trip overall?
A: It was a trip of a lifetime! I had the time of my life!
Carl Perham
Carl Perham of Burin graduated from the Practical Nurse Program in 2011 and is also currently employed with Eastern Health. He says nothing could have prepared him for the warm reception he received in Qatar.
Q: What did you think of your trip to Qatar?
A: From the very first moment I arrived at Qatar, I felt like a part of the CNA-Q family, though an alumni visitor. There was no expense spared to make my experience come alive which proved evident with a shuttle ride to the Four Seasons hotel. These accommodations far exceeded anything I had researched on the internet before arriving in Doha. With just a short night to rest, a week of exciting excursions and tours would fill a busy week of celebration and fun.
Q: What did you think of the celebrations?
A: The gala and graduation were unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. The exciting atmosphere of staff and students was more than evident in all venues. What a wonderful feeling of family protruding through every fibre of the CNA-Q celebrations. The events flourished with unlimited expense and professionalism, yet filled with warm welcoming smiles. I have never been part of such a celebration in my life and there are not enough words to express to you my appreciation for this wonderful opportunity.
Q: What was the highlight of your trip?
A: The CNA-Q campus tour was by far one of the highlights of my trip to Qatar. It is a facility springing forth from the desert with the greatest equipment and instructors that can be afforded in such a modern age. The sense of pride that could be felt wall to wall is contagious. CNA-Q is indeed an oasis of knowledge in the desert. Refreshing to no end. Never have I been treated with such generosity and honour as was given by CNA staff. I, of course, am not surprised by this since there is a common thread of professional understanding and respect from CNA-Newfoundland, reaching across the ocean to CNA-Qatar.
Sarah Pope
Sarah Pope, of Mount Pearl, graduated from the Petroleum Engineering Technology program in 2012 and gained employment as a field specialist with Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil and gas industry provider.
Q: What did you think of your trip to Qatar?
A: The hospitality of the Qatari people is second to none. The culture is beautiful and the CNA-Q campus is amazing. The excitement for us alumni was infectious. I couldn’t have imagined three better people to travel with than Jennifer, Kyle and Carl. As strangers, we embarked on this journey together and quickly became life-long friends.
Q: What did you think of the celebrations?
A: We attended the 10th anniversary gala as well as the graduation ceremony. These elaborate celebrations were incredible. They were more like red-carpet productions than any function I had ever attended. To be a part of something so special was an honour! As a recent graduate from the college, I could sense and relate to the excitement of the graduates. Their energy and pride took over the room. While listening to the valedictorian’s speeches, I even had goose bumps! It was such an amazing experience.
Q: How would you describe your trip overall?
A: Overall, my time spent in Qatar is the fondest memory in my life to date. The memories and friendships made are really quite special. There truly are no words to express my gratitude to the college for allowing me this opportunity. I learned that the CNA family is full of incredibly kind and interesting people. The friendships and connections made in Qatar are priceless. To the entire CNA and CNA-Q families, I send my sincerest thanks. I can’t wait to go back!