Spring Break 2012 was probably the most eye opening experience of my life. I was chosen to travel to the Middle East to serve as an ambassador for my university at our campus in Doha, Qatar. After the initial feelings of surprise and excitement, the fear started to settle in. I had never traveled outside of the country, much less overseas. I’ve never even been to Canada and I’m from Michigan! While it has always been my dream to go to France or Greece, Qatar had never crossed my mind.
When I thought of the Middle East, I immediately pictured the images that circulated CNN and ABC regularly. But what I came to see, was a country that seemed to be doing much better than the one I had traveled from.
I had absolutely no idea the beauty I would see in the Middle East.
My group and I traveled all around the country, which is so much more than just sand and dust – although a huge dust storm had just passed a few days before we landed.
We traveled to “the giant pearl” which is basically a huge fountain that looks like a clam and has the most beautiful faux-pearl inside. Apparently, Qatar is famous for fresh water and salt water pearls. I actually got to purchase some for much cheaper than they are in the states.
I was also able to travel to a market that had a seafood shop with a fish smell so strong that I still smelled it an hour after we left. I even got to meet students at Education City, where universities like VCU and Carnegie Melon have campuses.
By far, my best experience in Qatar had to be with the food. We went to a restaurant where we thought the first course was the whole meal because it was so huge. These are just a few examples of the images of Qatar that I would have never gotten a chance to see living in the states.
I say all this to say that sometimes it takes digging your feet into the sand on the Persian Gulf to realize that everything isn’t as it seems. We all owe it to ourselves to take a look with our own eyes, whether it’s atop a Camel, thousands of miles away, or in our own backyards.