Largest class of freshmen bring talent and ambition to NU-Q

Students participate in Northwestern's "March Through the Arch" tradition, welcoming them to the school

The energy levels were high on the first day of orientation at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) as 95 freshmen started their undergraduate careers.

The incoming class – NU-Q’s 10th – is the largest and most diverse with students from more than 25 different nationalities. Fifty-six percent of the class is Qatari and there are 10 new nationalities joining the NU-Q student body: Algeria, Gambia, Lebanon, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Tanzania, and Ukraine.

“Welcoming the Class of 2021 in NU-Q’s new building is a major milestone for us,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO. “Our student intake has grown from 38 students in 2008 to almost 300 undergraduate students today. Our newest class will join their fellow classmates in learning and exploring in an incredible new building which includes a newsroom that rivals leading network newsrooms, high-tech production studios, multiple editing suites, a black box theater, and a two-story library.”

Mariam Al Khalifa, a Qatari freshman and aspiring filmmaker, is achieving a long-term goal by attending NU-Q. More than four years ago, Al Khalifa was attending the THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival, which encourages high school students to develop their filmmaking skills. She later became the president of the festival and worked closely with NU-Q on organizing it annually. “I’ve always been interested in communications as a whole, and I am especially looking forward to making use of NU-Q’s amazing faculty and incredible new facility,” Al Khalifa said.

Hatim Rachdi, a freshman who has been in Qatar for less than a week after arriving from his home in Morocco, plans to pursue a degree in communication. He hopes to use his time at NU-Q to learn about the media industry in the region, master strategic communication, and develop academic research skills to prepare him for graduate school in the future. “It’s amazing because I get to study media and communication in the Middle East at a prestigious American university, which is so special. The people here [staff and faculty] really care and make you feel like you matter, and the student body is so international and diverse,” Rachdi said.

Shafuq Zia, a Pakistani aspiring author and journalist, found NU-Q to be an ideal school for her to realize her childhood ambition. “NU-Q offers students an opportunity to study at one of the highest-ranked schools in the world and provides great financial aid and scholarship opportunities, which is a combination of things that are very important to me,” Zia said. “I was a little skeptical about coming to Qatar because I didn’t know much about the country, but after visiting it during the Preview NU-Q session, I was blown away – I absolutely love it here.”

Tony El Ghazal graduated at the top of his local high school at the age of 16. An aspiring filmmaker, he grew up in Qatar and attended one of NU-Q’s summer programs where he says his love for media and filmmaking started. “My dream is to work with Disney – I’ve always been fascinated by the quality and the richness of the movies produced by Disney, and I think NU-Q’s communication program will teach me all I need to know about the backend of how great films are made and the research and preparation that goes into them,” said El Ghazal.

New students at NU-Q are attending an orientation session this week and will join the rest of the student body next week when classes begin.