In the months since I made the decision to move to Qatar as a school counselor, I have had many diverse reactions. They range from excitement to concern to complete disinterest, but there have been a few common questions that pop up repeatedly. So I thought I'd share a few of the questions I commonly receive, and an answer to each. Feel free to ask more in the comments below!
1. Where is Qatar? Is Dubai the capital city?
2. Why are you moving there?
The short answer to this is that I was offered a job at a fantastic school for expat children. The more complicated answer involves having the opportunity to work with students living overseas (I was an Army "brat" who experienced numerous transitions myself), being able to travel and live overseas again, expanding my professional knowledge by working with other wonderful counselors, and some great benefits! As I have been preparing for this move, I have also discovered a side bonus: I will have the chance to learn and understand more about Arabic and Muslim cultures and traditions… including the indulgence of delicious food and drinks!
3. Will you be teaching or counseling? With students from Qatar or other countries?
4. Is it safe? Are you worried about issues in the surrounding countries?
This might be the most common question I am asked. It is true that there are many struggles and even war in countries near Qatar; I am well aware of the current events. However, there is no reason to believe that Qatar will be involved. There is currently no evidence of political concerns in the country, even according to the US government. There is a U.S. military base and embassy in Doha. In fact, counselors and staff claim that they have felt safe living there, and very little crime is reported. Of course, all thoughts and prayers are welcome!
5. Isn't it hot there? Will you wear a burqa?
6. Where will you live? Is there a compound?
The school will provide a furnished, three bedroom apartment. It will be ready and waiting for me upon my arrival, and they have promised a starter set with needed items like dishes and sheets! All staff are provided with housing in various places around the city, but the school is currently building one place in which all staff will reside. I hear it will be ready in December 2014, and will be set up quite nicely with many amenities! We are not confined to the campus, and can travel freely around the city. I'll post pictures of my place when I get there!
7. How will you get around?
Expats can apply to obtain a driver's license before renting or purchasing a car. Driving in Doha is supposed to be quite… active… and I am frankly a little nervous about it! Public transportation, walking, and biking are limited. I plan to hire a driver if it is at all affordable, or at least until I can find my way around (after all, Doha does not have street names or building numbers. Getting directions sounds a lot like, "Take a right at the Burger King roundabout, then take a left after the National Bank."). I'm decent with directions and finding my way around, but… this will be an adventure.
8. What is daily life like? What will you eat?
My understanding from other expats is that life is quite similar to Western culture in many ways. There is a typical commute to and from school, a regular work day, shopping for food at grocery stores like Carrefour, and the every day activities of life (i.e., socializing, dinners, movies, etc). There are restaurants serving- and grocery stores offering- every type of food imaginable, and even malls with stores that are familiar to you, like Gap and Nine West. One interesting fact: weekends are different from those in the US; I will be off on Fridays and Saturdays!
9. Do you speak Arabic?
I don't speak Arabic, though I hope to learn enough to show respect to Qatari people I meet! I have flashcards that help me to practice the letters and a few basic words, but I will need a lot more practice. Most signs are in both Arabic and English, and I understand that many people speak both in common areas such as shops and restaurants. Still, it is my hope that I can speak basic phrases within the first few weeks.
10. Will you be blogging about your travels?
Of course! I have switched to a different platform, but you can still connect with it from this address. The new travel blog is called wonder.wander.write! I hope to hear feedback and comments from you all… keep it coming!
Additional questions are welcome in the comment field below.