Last week, 15 rising juniors from the journalism and communications programs at Northwestern’s Qatar campus participated in the long awaited "Evanston Experience." This weeklong trip is offered to each sophomore class at the end of the academic year as a way to connect the two campuses. For those of you who don’t know, Qatar is a tiny peninsula located in the Persian Gulf and is about 7,000 miles away from Chicago. You’ll barely see it on a map, but you should still look it up. After an exhausting and turbulent 15-hour flight, and a greeting by Chicago’s not-so-sunny weather, we made our way to our hotel and from there we began to experience a small, week-long snippet of what life is like for students on main campus. As a student on Qatar’s campus, I have to admit that it’s sometimes hard to feel connected to the larger Northwestern community, seeing as we study half way across the world and all. Nevertheless, we’re told about the traditions that every wildcat knows, such as marching through the arch during orientation week, guarding and painting the rock and so on. I think I speak for all of those who participated on this trip when I say that it was an incredible feeling to finally take part in those traditions on main campus.
Our days were so jam-packed with activities both on and off campus. We met so many people and took part in so many activities that it almost felt like we experienced in one week what many Chicagoans still haven’t experienced. Although visiting the Willis Tower and exploring the Mag Mile are all memories that will stay with me forever, what I appreciated the most were the people I shared these experiences with. Everyone we met was so welcoming, from the members of Purple Haze who took the time to perform for us, to the students who we were introduced to around campus. Of course, this sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s true.
During their Spring break this year, a few students from Evanston came to visit Northwestern University in Qatar’s (NUQ) campus and we managed to bond over our shared experiences as media students, while drinking way too many cups of Karak (a sweet milky tea that’s very popular in Qatar). It was that very same group of 16 students that surprised us at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria and shared a few slices of deep-dish pizza with us the night we landed in Chicago. For the rest of the week, we were shown aspects of college life that we don’t always experience on Qatar’s campus. At the same time, we were able to meet members of Evanston’s clubs and organizations and exchange our ideas, advice and experiences with them. We also managed to bring part of the Qatari culture to Evanston as we greeted people by the rock and offered them a cup or two of Karak. It was so enriching to be in the center of this interaction between our two campuses.
There’s definitely a gap that needs to be bridged between all three of Northwestern’s campuses. From my conversations with students on main campus, I got the general feeling that many people know that NU-Q exists, but don’t necessarily know what our students do. I think that the most fulfilling thing about this trip is knowing that we managed to show a portion of NU-Evanston’s community, albeit a small one, what we’re all about. Just like other Northwestern media students, we are a group of inspired and enthusiastic journalism and communications students, who aim to give a voice to the voiceless and create our own content based on our lives and experiences. I hope that we managed to show Evanston students not only how we are different, but also how we are all part of the same community. Here at the Qatar campus, we’re told how similar our university experiences will be to those in Evanston, but I think that I speak for a lot of us when I say that it was such a great opportunity for us to catch a glimpse of the ‘Evanston experience’ ourselves and come up with our own conclusions and observations. Talking to other Medill students and club leaders made me realize just how similar our experiences actually are and how similar our aspirations are in our given fields.
So now, our entire group of 15 students is back in Qatar feeling nostalgic for Evanston’s beautiful campus and seriously craving some of Andy’s Frozen Custard. Most of all we miss the new friends that we met in Evanston. It’s satisfying to know that after only one week on main campus, we’ve all created a small network of great friendships between Evanston and Qatar that will hopefully only get bigger as we continue to bridge the gap between our two campuses. This experience has proven to me that even though our campuses are miles away, we are one Northwestern.