Government professor Clyde Wilcox, who has taught at Georgetown’s main campus since 1987, transitioned this year to the School of Foreign Service in Qatar, where he will remain for two years. Wilcox reflected on his experience living in a foreign country for the first time and teaching American politics to students in the Middle East.
What prompted you to move to Qatar?
I’ve been invited to come over here and teach in the past, but my children were still in high school. So now my kids are in college and grown, it’s an interesting challenge to teach students with different backgrounds and to prepare new kinds of classes. It’s the chance to do something different.
What are some differences between the campus [in Qatar] and the campus [in Washington, D.C.]?
Well, we’re all in one building here: it’s only the School of Foreign Service. The students are mostly from the Middle East. … I teach American politics, and so they haven’t really travelled to the United States. Most of them don’t know much about the United States, so it’s a bit of a challenge. One thing that was kind of interesting was that none of the students [have] their photos on Blackboard, because it is a privacy issue for them.
How has your daily routine changed with being over there?
Well, one thing that’s different is that … Sunday is a teaching day and Friday and Saturday is the weekend. They have me living in the Pearl, which is a complex on an artificial island, and so there is a little shuttle bus that comes and picks us up and takes us to campus.
What are some cultural changes you’ve had to make?
I’m teaching religion and politics, a very delicate topic over here. This is a country that has laws against blasphemy and laws against proselytizing — it’s not that I would ever be blaspheming or proselytizing anyway. It’s also a country where there’s one established religion, and there is not much politics [since] it’s a kingdom, no elections. So teaching religion and politics is a bit of a difference — more of a challenge — than it is on the main campus.
What is [Doha] like compared to Washington, D.C.?
Doha is a very hot place. High temperatures are in the 100s, usually, and the low temperatures by now are around 90 degrees at five in the morning. It’s pretty dry, it’s mostly desert.
What do you do in your free time over there?
So far, I’ve been exploring Doha and getting out to the other parts of the country. It’s a pretty small country…It’s a very international campus. I mean, the Georgetown main campus is very international, but this is extremely international, and the faculty and staff and the students are from all over the world. So there’s a lot of learning different cultures.
Would you encourage other faculty members to make the move?
You know, I think that it’s always good to kind of shake up your routine. This is a pretty interesting challenge. I’m enjoying it so far.
What classes are you teaching currently?
I’m doing religion and politics, and interest groups and social movements.
How are those classes different from the ones you taught at [the main campus]?
I’ve taught the interest groups course at Georgetown in the past. I taught a course about politics and the Christian right on the main campus, but I’ve never [taught] just generally religion and politics. Although there are American politics courses, I teach more comparative content over here, because [the students] don’t know much about the U.S., so I have to [say] ‘this is how we’re different from Europe, this is how we’re different from other countries.’ I’m also teaching women and politics in the spring, which I’ve never taught before, but that’s going to be a bit of a challenge.
Are you going to come back to the country to see the World Cup in 2022?
I don’t know. That’s an interesting proposition. I have to tell you, it’s really hot here. I just don’t know how they’re going to be able to manage to have outdoor games in the summer. It’s a very ambitious country; they’re doing a lot of building and construction. They have totally transformed [Doha] in a matter of 10 years. But, in the middle of the summer, it’s 110 degrees in the middle of the day, very humid, and then it cools down to 100 at night. Outdoor soccer seems very challenging.