Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

SFS Qatar Exchange Students Embrace Hilltop Life Abroad

Late-night sessions in Lauinger Library, exploring the monuments and adjusting to unfamiliar weather patterns are new experiences not only for many first-year and transfer students, but also for five School of Foreign Service in Qatar students studying at Georgetown’s Washington, D.C. campus this semester.

The five students showcase the diverse student body on SFS-Q’s campus. They hail from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Syria and Massachusetts. Massachusetts native Katharine Danilowicz (SFS-Q ’19) has lived in Panama, Bangladesh and Pakistan due to her father’s diplomatic career. It is her first time in the United States since fourth grade.

Danilowicz said she wanted to learn more about life on the Hilltop after hearing about it from her family.

“My grandfather, father and brother all went to Georgetown, so I very much felt like I had to get some of the Hilltop experiences they always talked about,” she said. “What I’ve enjoyed the most is just having the D.C. experience. Finally getting jokes about Lau, complaining about Leo’s, eating sandwiches at Wisey’s and getting to check out interesting places in D.C. with experiences we wouldn’t get in Doha,” Danilowicz said.

For Ritica Ramesh (SFS-Q ’19), who was raised in Qatar, the resources provided for her major of study determined her choice to study on the main campus.

“I’m pursuing a certificate in American Studies, and my major focuses on American diplomacy, and I figured it would be a great experience to study in D.C,” she said. “My personal interests lie in criminal justice, and there are a lot of avenues and classes available in D.C. to pursue that interest.”

Normeanne Joyce Sison, left, Maryam al-Wehaibi and Jamal Khatib are three of the 10 students of the School of Foreign Service in Qatar currently studying for a semester at Georgetown’s main campus as foreign exchange students.

A Rocky Transition

Established 12 years ago, SFS-Q is located in Doha’s University City, an area of concentrated higher education centers including branches of universities such as Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University and Northwestern University.

Ten students from Doha are currently on campus this semester, according to SFS Assistant Dean Lisa Gordinier. Every semester, Gordinier is tasked with facilitating the transition for students from Doha. The summer session always sees the most students visiting from Qatar’s campus, with approximately 30 students, Gordinier said.

The transfer students attend information sessions at the beginning of their semesters on the main campus, which explain university services such as Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Academic Resource Center. All SFS-Q exchange students are invited to take part in New Student Orientation and the international pre-orientation program.

Danilowicz said the university’s resources eased the transition, though the weather has required an adjustment, as have the relatively spartan dorms.

“The weather has definitely shocked me the most. It’s already starting to get way too cold for me and it is only October,” Danilowicz said. “Also, they definitely spoil us with the dorms back in Doha. Our dorms are compared to hotels and we never have a roommate. So this was the first time I’ve had a roommate. She’s great, and it’s been a great experience, but it definitely is new.”

Different Campuses, Different Cultures

Though academic life is comparable on both campuses, the D.C. campus offers more outlets for socializing and meeting new people, Hunain Ali (SFS-Q ’19) said.

“Campus life at main campus is much better. It is way more active and lively than GU-Q,” Ali said. “Most of the students at main campus live in dorms, so it makes sense as to why it is more active. Academically, I would say it is pretty much the same.”

Class sizes and relationships with professors set the two campuses apart, according to Ramesh.

“In Qatar, the classes are smaller and you have a much closer relationship with your professors. You eat lunch with them, you go to events with them, you spend a lot of time with them — in a way, they become your friends, too,” she said. “That’s something that always blows my mind because you have these top-tier academics, and they’re personally invested in your success and educational journey at a very micro level.”

Ramesh said D.C. has a distinctive atmosphere of advocacy, which the Doha campus lacks but makes up for in school pride.

“There’s also a culture of advocacy and activism on campus here that also goes beyond just Georgetown and infiltrates the general D.C. community. In Qatar, we do most of our advocacy within Georgetown. But, at the end of the day, we still have as much Hoya Pride as they do here, and we still Bleed Hoya Blue, so that common link is great,” she said.

Syria native Jamal Khatib (SFS-Q ’19) moved to Boston with his family when the civil war broke out in 2011. Khatib said the recruitment opportunities drew him to spending a semester at Georgetown D.C., but he did not realize how competitive and cutthroat the recruitment process would be.

“I chose to study abroad this semester primarily because I heard the recruitment connections and opportunities here are much stronger. I wanted to use this time to secure a summer internship in New York,” Khatib said. “The process was really exhausting, I was constantly going to information sessions, networking events, interviews and dinners with prospective bosses, which was a lot.”

U.S. students can be intimidating to approach, according to Ali.

“Students at Qatar campus are much more approachable and easy to talk to. But again, maybe I’m not aware of the American culture and how things work here,” he said. “I thought it would be much easier to socialize and meet new people here than in Qatar.”

Danilowicz said that there is a similarity that links Hoyas from both campuses.

“At the end of the day, both campuses are full of Georgetown students who are incredibly intelligent and passionate and who are working to do amazing things and improve their communities,” she said. “That’s core to what Georgetown is and, despite the fact that each campus caters to different populations, it’s key to who their students are and what they want to do.”

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