Saturday, September 29, 2007

Since Day 3: Back to Work

My first post ended at day three...lots has happened since. I was here for two weeks before classes started on Sunday, August 26. Yes, that is right - the work week here is Sunday - Thursday; Friday is the muslim holy day and their Saturday is like our Saturday.

During the first two weeks, I didn't think the orientation sessions (all were informative and most were interesting) and immigration processes would ever end, so I wasn't able to get my course materials together until the weekend before classes started and I had several late nights as a result.

I'm teaching three courses: two sections of senior studio and one section of sophomore manual drafting. The senior studios meet Sun/Tues 2:40-6:00 pm and Mon/Wed 2:40-6:00 pm. The sophomore manual drafting class meets Mon/Wed 8:00-10:25 am. In other words, I have two early morning classes, late afternoons classes four days a week, and no classes on Thursday.

My seniors (12 total - 6 per section) are mostly Qatari who always wear abayas (long black gowns that fully cover them) and, most of the time, shaylas (head scarves). Two also wear the niqab, a face covering that only shows their eyes. Fortunately one wears glasses, so I can tell the two of them apart, although one has a lower voice and I'd have learned to recognize her that way. The project we are working on is an Immigration Processing Center, a visionary project that I devised in response to the immigration processing that I went through with other colleagues who are new to Qatar.

My sophomores, 10 in all, are more of a mixed group. Half are Qatari - all of whom wear abayas and shaylas. The other five are from other middle eastern countries: Lebanon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. They all dress like American college students - jeans and tops. Two of the non-Qatari students have been wearing abayas since Ramadan began on September 13th, but I expect they will remove those when it ends in mid-October. The drafting course content is somewhat like I had been teaching at La Roche, although we haven't taught ink-on-mylar drafting for years - that took some getting used to, but I found that I remember how to put ink in a Rapidograph pen.

From occasional glimpes of clothing under the abayas, it seems that most have designer jeans and tops on underneath. Other predictable parts of their wardrobes are BIG designer handbags, LARGE sunglasses, and pretty sandals - some high heeled and some not.

All of my students have very good English skills. Several have lived in the United States. One, for example, spent 7 years in the US while her father, who is an orthopedic surgeon, was in school at the University of Chicago. All are also women - VCU just started admitting men to their program this year - so those that are here now are freshmen.

In many ways they are much like our American students - they consider a C to be failing, rather than average, as I do. Some keep up with their work, and some do not. Some are serious minded and focused, and some are not.

1 comment:

Kit said...

How interesting! I remember when I used to have trouble the first week or two of class telling the back row full of young men with their baseball caps jammed down over their heads apart -- distinguishing between robed people would be a much greater challenge!

Thanks for sharing the experience with us, Carolyn!