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Desert Camping with SFS Dean Marks First Retreat for Qatar Students

Camping in Qatar

Dean Carol Lancaster (fourth from the right wearing a hat and sunglasses) and the SFS-Qatar students who camped in the Doha desert as part of the school's first formal retreat.

October 5, 2011 – School of Foreign Service (SFS) Dean Carol Lancaster went camping in the Doha desert in late September with 20 SFS-Qatar students as part of the school’s first formal retreat.

The stunning desert landscape of the Qatari south and clear skies served as the backdrop for the overnight camping trip, which included conversations with students, student affairs officers and faculty about student-run clubs and other topics.

The retreat also included a bonfire, a barbeque, playing volleyball, soccer and football, swimming in the Persian Gulf and making s’mores.

“Where they got the marshmallows, I have no idea,” Lancaster said. “Several rather bored looking camels supervised the activities.”

Training Exercise

Sand-surfing

Several SFS-Qatar students surfed the sands of the Doha desert during the overnight retreat.

The dean said the retreat was a training exercise for student leaders.

“I am sure the attention each of them got from the very able student affairs officers was helpful,” she said. “This knowledge has to be learned and it is a good experience for students to gain it.”

While some students slept close to the Persian Gulf, Lancaster opted for a tent.

“As it turned out, I did not sleep under the stars,” said the dean, known for her wry sense of humor. “Since too many folks in Qatar like to run their SUVs up and down sand dunes at all hours of the night and day, and I noticed car tracks on the sand dune I wanted to sleep on, I decided getting run over in the dark was probably not worth communing with the stars.”

Lancaster is a longtime camper and has even camped out in Africa.

“My husband and I have a house in the Virginia mountains,” she explained, “and I sometimes sleep outside there.”

Sharing Life Experiences

She said she was happy to camp out Sept. 23 with the students and staff in the retreat organized by SFS-Qatar’s Office for Student Development.

SFS-Qatar is home to many student-run organizations, including the Hoya Hope Club, which organizes community-based research and service projects, and the Hoya English Language Program HELP club, a volunteer outreach program to teach English to workers in Education City, where the school resides.

“The trip was an amazing experience that allowed us to communicate with staff and faculty outside the normal and professional confines,” says Eman Merghani (SFS’15). “We managed to interact as individuals and learn from sharing each other’s life experiences. Dean Lancaster’s presence during the night speaks for her and Georgetown’s dedication to us as students, since she took the time off to get to know us.”

The students were invited based on their level of active participation in providing leadership at the school.

Talent and Chocolate

“The trip highlights the cherished connections formed among faculty, staff and students at School of Foreign Service in Qatar,” said Patrick Lennihan, a student affairs officer. “The energy at [SFS-Q] is student-driven and indicative of the level of talent developed here that succeeds in the Middle East and across the globe.”

Another student affairs officer, Erica Haviland, noted that the s’more-makers had to substitute digestive cookies for graham crackers, but that the students “seemed to enjoy it lot” anyway.

“The chocolate, which was already semi-melted due to the heat, got everywhere,” she added.

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