Marhaba from Qatar! OWN students join QFI for annual aber educational exchange

This spring, a group of OneWorld Now! Seattle and Honolulu students ventured to Doha, Qatar on the annual Qatar Foundation International’s àber program. àber is an annual educational exchange that brings together students from the United States and Qatar in an exploration of identity and cultures through the Arabic language and the Arts.

The 6th year OWN has participated in the exchange, we continue to see a significant impact on students:

“If it wasn’t for OWN and QFI, I wouldn’t even have been able to go on such an amazing and life changing program. This was my first time studying abroad and I’m glad I got to spend it in an Arab country because who else in my school can say “I went to the Middle East”? Because of these two programs, it sparked my interest in the region, language and culture. I do hope in the future I get to study abroad again.” – Micha, OWN Hawaii

“The way I’ve used my leadership skills during the program is stepping out of my comfort zone.  I’ve tried many new things, like food that I never thought I would ever try.  I am usually the shy and quiet type of person, but I tried to come out of my shell and put myself out there by talking and introducing myself to people first.” – Celina, OWN Hawaii

The 2015 àber program included 30 American students, from six states:, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington, joined by 30 Qatari students from Doha. The students come together to strengthen their Arabic language skills by learning about Islamic art, Arab culture and participating in service learning activities.

OneWorld Now! students reflect on some of the program highlights and key learnings.

“I tried to meet and speak to as many people as I could. If there is one thing One World Now has taught me, it’s that communication is key. I made new friends and got to meet knew people. I’m an introverted person but throughout the whole trip I was outside of my comfort zone and I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for OWN’s leadership sessions. Because of this experience my comfort zone has stretched and things I would usually avoid doing that I tried in Qatar, I have no problem doing here”. – Abdullahi, OWN Seattle

“I wasn’t really sure how to approach them or whether or not I should speak in Arabic or in English. At first, I didn’t really talk much, thinking that we were different since we live in very different countries.  As the week went on, I started to talking to them more and realized that we weren’t so different at all and we just started to connect.  Just because we lived in different countries, it didn’t mean that we were completely different people”. – Celina, OWN Hawaii, on meeting the Qatari students for the first time

OneWorld Now! students took this opportunity to set language learning goals.

“Throughout the trip, while we did the activities that were planned for us, I tried to speak in Arabic as best as I could, including talking to people who were very fluent in the language.  I was nervous, although it was a great opportunity being able to actually use the language that I’ve been learning for over a year now.” – Celina, OWN Hawaii

“I didn’t expect so many people in the country to speak and be fluent in English. There wasn’t a person there I spoke to that didn’t speak English and that kind of makes me wonder why the ”Melting Pot” is so bland. It also motivates me to study Arabic because most of the kids I had met have never been to English speaking countries and if they could learn a foreign language, then I could do it.” – Abdullahi, OWN Seattle

A closing through from QFI:

“Our annual àber trip is always a rewarding and culturally enlightening experience for everyone – students and teachers, Americans and Qataris. Our mission is to provide opportunities for students to learn and experience Arabic language and culture; through connections with their peers in Doha, they can experience the Arab world for themselves, developing friendships halfway around the world.” – Executive Director at QFI, Maggie Mitchell Salem

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