Students from NU-Q get a taste of Evanston campus

Maria LaMagna

Northwestern University in Qatar students returned home Friday after a weeklong trip that included visiting Navy Pier, observing a “Page One” meeting at the Chicago Tribune, shadowing classes and running into David Schwimmer.

“It’s definitely been amazing,” said Omer Mohammad, a Communication sophomore at NU-Q, one of 16 students who made the trip.

The students’ week on the Evanston campus followed a trip NU students took to Qatar earlier this spring.

NU-Q, which established its campus in fall 2008 in partnership with the Qatar Foundation, was built in Education City in Doha, Qatar. Currently the school offers majors in communication and journalism.

Trip adviser Becca Donaldson, a student affairs specialist for NU-Q, said this exchange of students is a “new tradition” that began last year, and she said she would like it to become an annual tradition.

“These short trips are just glimpses of what life is like on the other campus in order to start some of those interpersonal relationships that will lead to more cross-campus collaboration,” Donaldson, Communication ’08, said.

This collaboration included a discussion about the controversial chalk drawings of the Prophet Muhammad by the student group Secular Humanists for Inquiry and Free Thought.

“That was really interesting,” Donaldson said. “Even though there’s still a lot of disagreement about some of the actions that took place, the students were really glad to have the opportunity to gain an understanding of what everyone was talking about.”

She said she and other trip advisers brainstormed to decide what activities students would participate in while visiting campus.

“We wanted to give them a taste of what student life is like in Evanston, so that involves everything it does for an Evanston student,” Donaldson said. “We tried to just make it a good mix.”

In addition to reuniting with Evanston campus students they had met in Qatar, NU-Q students were able to sightsee in Chicago. They saw “Trust” at the Lookingglass Theatre, where they met Schwimmer.

“He was just sitting there and we were like, ‘Oh! Look at him!’ And then we went over and talked to him and stuff,” Mohammad said. “We walked over and asked him about the issues he brought up in the play and some of the ways we might be able to tackle them back home in Doha.”

Mohammad said he and the other visiting students had a positive first impression of Evanston.

“The campus is absolutely stunning. I can’t say it enough, and I can’t say it with as much emphasis as I feel in my head,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful place. The trees, the people, the rain, the wind. I love it so much.”

Although the weather was cold during the week, Mohammad said it only added to the experience.

“We’re all complaining (about the weather), but I think we feel thankful that it is a change,” he said. “We’d rather have this than Doha summer. At home you get wind, but it’s sandy, and it gets in your nose and your ears. Here it’s clear and crisp and it’s really nice.”

Communication sophomore Hillary Thornton visited Qatar in the spring and last week was able to see some friends she met there.

She said she participated in their welcome dinner at Olive Mountain, helped them navigate the El and showed them how to paint a rock along the Lakefill.

“I’m really happy they got to see it here,” she said. “They’re absolutely Northwestern students too, so it’s fun to see what all Northwestern has. They were really impressed with how big the school they’re attending really is because they have, like, half a building for themselves in Qatar.”

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