It’s not uncommon to see international diplomats around Raleigh; after all we live in the middle of the research triangle park: the mecca of all things global and business. The RTP has hosted hundreds of foreign visitors who usually stay just long enough to attend a few meet and greets, get some business done, and perhaps visit a few sights within the triangle.
What’s rare is to see a group of foreign students whose main purpose of visiting is not for business, but rather to view American life through the eyes of college women in the triangle. These students, young women from the University of Qatar in the Middle East, were chosen out of over 200 applicants to participate in an exclusive exchange with Peace College in downtown Raleigh on the week of February 1st-6th.
This exchange, going four years strong, has sent over twenty Middle Eastern women to the City of Oaks since its creation. The idea was conceived by Mohana Raja Kumar, a former student at Peace who wished to make a connection between the two countries in order to lessen misconceptions and encourage curiosity. Since then the program has flourished offering young women who have never traveled outside their country a chance to experience the diverse cultures and traditions of America.
While in America Qatari students participate in tours around the city and triangle, various team building excursions, as well as panels and class sessions with local students. During these sessions the differences between the two nations are discussed and questions regarding customs and opinions are brought to the table for discussion. This gives all students a chance to understand each other better and form lasting bonds which transcend their time on campus.
Head of International Studies and coordinator for the Qatar-America exchange Dr. Laura Vick is excited for students to experience the unique differences between Qatari culture and our own:
“It’s a chance for Qatar University Women and Peace women to have one on one interaction so that they can learn first-hand cultural differences and different perceptions.”
But this experience is not only for the students of the University of Qatar. Each summer Peace College sends their own group of young woman to the Middle East in order to experience life as their new friends do each day.
Tiffany Taylor, a Peace college student who participated in the exchange in 2009 describes the experience:
“The opportunity to meet people from a completely different part of the world is a very important and fun one in itself but the real fun is in the relationships in which you will gain from spending time with the Qatari students. I never thought that I would create such close friendships with the girls in such a short amount of time.”