Saturday, March 12, 2005

Reflections on flight from Qatar to Heathrow

(Written on the plane, posted from Heathrow. We were delayed quite a few hours in Bahrain)

The energy is lessening, everyone is succumbing to exhaustion. In a way I noticed it in the hotel, before we headed back to the souks to get the final gifts for everyone. Everyone was nodding off in the lobby, killing time before we got picked up. We all have been awake, alive so much this week that when it all was said and done, when we all had an unwinding experience, we gave in to tiredness. But the sleep was peaceful.

The energy on the flight over, the energy of our Pittsburgh student delegation, was nothing compared to the energy of the students, faculty, and staff of the Carnegie Mellon - Qatar campus. They are excited to be starting something big. There is palpable enthusiasm. They know they are pioneers. They seem to have the right attitude. They are all proud of Carnegie Mellon, proud to be Carnegie Mellon - an example I should emulate.

Our group's energy has been converted to wisdom. We had to sign study abroad documents to go on this trip; the documents talk about earning credits. I was joking then that we should earn credits for this trip, because the forms were designed for people who were. I've earned much more than credits on this trip; I've been reminded of so much about life that I have become cold to. I have become more aware of the global environment in which we live. I probably will always have a spot in my heart for the Middle East. I have friends there. My heart was alive and well this week.

This week has made me think about my future - what I want to do. I would love to be part of something big, starting up a world class institution (or a branch thereof). I almost want to stay for next spring just to be able to go back on spring break. It was amazing.

I worry about the trustees and administration. During the information session held by the Education City planner, they discussed the building so much, they discussed so much that doesn't seem applicable to the every day life of students. Even the pictures of people in the buildings didn't look like the students that will be there. I understand they need to build infrastructure, However, the bigger picture seems missing. The administration spent almost no time with the students; some person only interacted with the students to get a picture with them. It felt like that picture was a trophy of his trip.

It seems, right now, cross registration among the campuses in Education City is limited. Students at CMU-Q are limited to CMU courses. I believe they would be wise to treat the colleges in Education city as departments, having Carnegie Mellon Qatar handle business and CS courses in education city, and have the other colleges handle other electives. This could dilute the "brand name" of a Carnegie Mellon degree, as they are trying to make sure that a CMU-Q student gets the same education as a CMU-Pittsburgh student. However, mass cross-registration seems to make the most sense to me.

If you ask me what was the most fun this week, I might say duning, I might say the dhow ride... but honestly, I have made friends. I learned about others. I learned about the world. I learned about myself. And that is so much more important than the activities.

Students of Carnegie Mellon - Qatar: good luck. You have made us proud, you are doing something amazing. Tell the administration what they're doing wrong: they need the brains of people on the ground there.

Students of Carnegie Mellon - Pittsburgh: we have family in the Middle East. They are Carnegie Mellon students just like we are.

I'll miss you, CMU-Q students. I can't wait to see some of you later this month. Lina, I don't know when I'll see you again, but I look forward to it.

Thank you to Student Affairs, for realizing that this trip wouldn't have been complete without Pittsburgh students.

Anyone want to take a course in Arabic with me next fall at Pitt?

A-salaam alaykum



Anonymous said...

I have made friends. I learned about others. I learned about the world.

And that's what it's all about -- the difference between visiting a place and getting to know a place. That's why I've always hoped I'd be able to live in foreign countries when I grew up, ideally as part of my job. And guess what opera singers get to do?


Anonymous said...

If you do find an Arabic language class at Pitt, let me know. I absolutely want to take a whack at it.

I'll tutor you in the alphabet if you'll get me an internship with google... :-P