MACON – Mercer University junior Alayna Williams is one of 10 students from American universities visiting Doha, Qatar, Nov. 27-Dec. 4, 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, provides 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 will meet with Qatari government officials, civil society actors, educators and students, businesspeople, journalists and others. This experience provides 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.
Williams, from Macon, is majoring in both international affairs and Spanish and minoring in women's and gender studies in Mercer's College of Liberal Arts.
"I am both thrilled and thankful for the opportunity to visit Qatar in the coming week. I have developed a great interest in Middle Eastern affairs during my time at Mercer through the Model Arab League program and courses in the International Affairs Program," said Williams.
"The importance of bettering U.S.-Arab relations cannot be overemphasized, and I hope to work toward this goal in the future. I am certain that this trip will serve as an excellent introduction to the region and will help prepare me for a career in international relations."
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.
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.
"As a student in international affairs who has a strong interest in the Middle East region, and an award-winning veteran of the Model Arab League Program, Alayna will be able to learn a great deal from this unique opportunity," said Dr. Eimad Houry, professor and chair of the Department of International and Global Studies and faculty adviser for Mercer's Model Arab League.
"Qatar is changing at a dizzying pace and represents an excellent case study of a country trying to modernize and preserve traditions and customs at the same time. Alayna will be fascinated by the transformation under way."
For more information on the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and its programs, visit www.ncusar.org.