Emirati, Qatari women students make their mark in Scotland

EDINBURGH/DUBAI — Nearly 43 young women from the UAE and Qatar received an exclusive opportunity to attend a month-long summer course in Scotland to learn about the country’s history, tradition and culture.

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Published: Sat 24 Jul 2010, 1:23 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:48 AM

Students of Zayed University, College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai, UAE University, American University of Sharjah, Higher Colleges of Technology, British University of Dubai, Abu Dhabi University and Qatar University were the lucky participants in the cultural-exchange programme that began on June 23.

“Our experience here over the last 30 days has been remarkable. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was given to us by Al Maktoum Institute has benefited us greatly,” said Hiba Eissa Al Redha, a student of International Relations at the Zayed University.

“We have come from cultural and social backgrounds in the Gulf region to live in a different cultural atmosphere in this beautiful and fascinating city — Edinburgh. This programme is just the beginning to change ourselves, develop our skills and capabilities to eventually change our societies,” she added.

Sponsored by Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, the concept of the programme was conceived in 2003 by Zayed University in collaboration with Al Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Aberdeen and the Edinburgh College of Art.

Its purpose is to encourage participants to interact with students from other universities in a relaxed environment and record their daily experiences in a journal that is to be printed later.

Candidates for the course were selected through a strict process where criteria included demonstration of strong English language skills, having grades 10 per cent above class average, attending their final year of university and ability to be worthy representatives.

Classes consisted lectures, seminars, class discussions, debates, study trips and other activities including visits to places of historical or cultural interest in Scotland.

“Our visit to the parliament and meeting with the First Minister and MPs was an unrivalled opportunity to learn how to speak up, support or oppose public policies for the benefit of the citizens,” said Shaikha Abdullah Abdul Rahman from the Islamic and Arabic Studies College.

“Edinburgh itself is one of Europe’s finest capitals, and it has a rich sense of history as well as a wonderful contemporary feel, great open spaces and a lively atmosphere. The summer school programme has helped us appreciate the significance of debate with people from other cultures and give them the opportunity to carry Islam’s message of tolerance to other students in Scotland. We were lucky enough to be the first group to stay in both Dundee and Edinburgh, spending three weeks in classes at the Al Maktoum Institute and then a further week at the Edinburgh College of Art,” she said.

At the closing ceremony held in the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Mirza Al Sayyegh, Deputy Chairman of Al Maktoum Foundation in Dubai, congratulated all students saying that they proved to be excellent ambassadors for their country.

“The Al Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Dundee aims to be a centre of excellence in the study of Islam, and Muslims in particular, to promote intelligent debate and understanding of Islam and the role of Muslims in the contemporary world, and to be a place of knowledge and reflection on the issues facing a diverse and multicultural world in the 21st century,” he said.

“When we combine these factors with the excellent academic records of the selected female students, the success is ensured. And what I have seen in the presentations this afternoon is the best evidence that the girls who have made them are different from those who came to Scotland last month. You have changed and this is only the beginning of a long way to excellence in a challenging world,” he concluded.


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