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Midshipman Studies Arabic, Engineering in Qatar

Posted on: February 20, 2013 08:00 EST by the International Programs Office

While most midshipmen were studying in Annapolis during the fall semester, Midshipman 2nd Class Sami Zahzouhi spent his semester in Doha, Qatar.

Education City in Qatar is an initiative sponsored by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, and houses branch campuses of many foreign schools, including six American universities.

While in Doha, Zahzouhi studied electrical engineering at the Texas A&M University branch campus and Arabic at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Most of the professors and students in Education City come from Qatar and surrounding countries, Zahzouhi said.

“It was a unique opportunity to gain a new and interesting perspective on Arab culture. I lived in a dorm with five Arabic-speaking roommates. Two were Egyptian, two were Palestinian, and one was Kuwaiti. I learned as much from them about politics in the Middle East and the Arabic language and culture as I did in any classroom,” he said.

When he wasn’t studying the Fourier transform of an electrical signal or memorizing Arabic vocabulary, he could be found dining on the best shawarma in the crowded streets of Souq Waqif, dune-bashing or riding camels in the desert, or cheering at a Qatari soccer game.

“Doha is a rapidly-growing city, making preparations to host the 2022 World Cup by developing a modern public transportation system and airport, dozens of new skyscrapers and stadiums,” said Zahzouhi. “In just four months, I saw buildings rise by a hundred stories. If I returned in ten years, I doubt I would recognize anything.”

Zahzouhi said the opportunity to study and live overseas contributed immensely to his professional development as an officer.

“You are taken out of the comfort zone you created at the academy and are now more responsible for taking care of yourself and managing your time,” he said. “Whether you’re in the Middle East or Europe, you learn how to interact with people who come from a different background. You learn to look at situations open-mindedly and adapt your actions and behavior as needed.”

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