Northwestern Students Spend Semester on Qatar Campus

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September 15, 2019

A group of students from Northwestern University’s home campus in the U.S. is spending a semester on its international campus in Qatar, immersing themselves in Middle Eastern culture and learning about the region’s people, politics, and history.

The four exchange students – Miguel Aponte, Leslie Bonilla, Martin Herrmann, and Eliza Posner – who share a common interest in exploring the world, traveled 7,000 miles to spend the semester experiencing life as a student in the Middle East at Northwestern University in Qatar.

Bonilla, who is majoring in journalism, political science, and Spanish, said, “I’ve known I wanted to come to Qatar since freshman year when I heard about this program. I figured it’s a great way to experience a completely different culture and still not have to interrupt my studies.”

“Our Semester in Qatar program, now in its eighth year,  brings exemplary students from Northwestern’s U.S. campus to Doha where they get a direct personal experience both in the classroom and in the larger community, which fosters a deeper understanding of Qatar and Middle Eastern traditions and culture more broadly," said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO. "This year’s students have impressive backgrounds coming from communication, journalism, and the liberal arts and both learn from their peers on the Qatar campus while bringing the Evanston experience here.”

While at NU-Q, the exchange students will also enroll in the Doha Seminar – an interdisciplinary course that offers an extensive academic view of Qatar and the Gulf, covering family, art, history, culture, consumerism, environmentalism, and foreign affairs. Supplemented by field trips, the program offers a rare opportunity to engage in a personal exchange of ideas with a mix of students, scholars, and leaders from beyond the University.

In addition to taking classes as part of their academic requirements, the four students will also experience the concept of Education City, a knowledge hub where NU-Q is located alongside five other American branch campuses: Georgetown University in Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Texas A&M University in Qatar, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.

A Middle East Studies major, Herrmann has always been intrigued by the region’s rich history and complexity. He said, “studying a region without ever going there doesn’t make a lot of sense. It just seemed like the first step to exploring the region a bit more.”

Posner, who is also specializing in the region with plans to double major in history, agrees. “I figured since I’m a Middle East and North Africa major, there was no better place to come because we already have a campus here,” she explained.

Aponte, a senior studying radio, television, and film, is particularly interested in discovering and experiencing the culture of Qatar and its diverse social makeup. “I came to Qatar because I wanted to meet new people across the world, and learn more about the Islamic culture and Qatari culture as well,” he said.

The Semester in Qatar program takes place each fall and is open to students from Northwestern’s Medill School, the School of Communication, and Weinberg.