MACON – Mercer University junior Emily Bless was one of 10 students from American universities to travel to Doha, Qatar, Nov. 28-Dec. 5, as part of an exchange and fellowship program offered by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR).
The Qatar Study Visit Exchange and Malone Fellowship, led by NCUSAR in cooperation with the Embassy of Qatar to the United States, provided U.S. students and professors with firsthand exposure to the nation with outsized influence in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Arab world, along with international energy markets, media and transportation industries.
The U.S. delegation met with Qatari government officials, civil society actors, educators and students, businesspeople, journalists and others. This experience provided not only educational and professional benefits for the delegation members, but also positive and much-needed dialogue between Americans and Arabs and the opportunity for cultural and people-to-people exchange.
Bless, from Acworth, is majoring in both international affairs and French and minoring in Spanish in Mercer's College of Liberal Arts.
"By visiting Qatar, I was able to see the modernization that is taking place throughout the country and the region. I was able to meet with governmental officials to hear about the changes that are occurring to increase human and social capital, environmental sustainability and development, and economic development to create a sustainable country and better ties with the United States and the international community," she said. "The experience was a great opportunity as I continue to prepare for a career in the international sector."
As a condition of their acceptance, delegation members will share their experiences in Qatar with their fellow students and home communities through a variety of speaking engagements, events and published articles. Bless plans to host a couple of public events at Mercer during the spring semester.
The Qatar Study Visit Exchange and Malone Fellowship aims to create ambassadors of goodwill on issues of importance to the Arab world and Arab-U.S. relations, and to build capacity among the American public to speak accurately of and engage with a region of the world that is critical to U.S. interests.
Members of the delegation were selected due to their standing as veterans of NCUSAR's Model Arab League, either as a student delegate or faculty adviser. The Model Arab League is a student debate and leadership program that places students in a position to role-play as diplomats and tackle key issues from a new perspective. Bless has participated in Mercer's program for the past two-and-a-half years.
"As an international affairs major and two-time award-winning participant in the Model Arab League Program, Emily was a natural choice. She has a strong interest in Middle Eastern affairs, and this opportunity provided her an introduction to the region, the people and the culture," said Dr. Eimad Houry, professor and chair of the Department of International and Global Studies and faculty adviser for Mercer's Model Arab League.
For more information on the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and its programs, visit www.ncusar.org.