Fencing's Boosalis Spends Year Studying in Qatar
July 18, 2014
Rising senior fencer Will Boosalis spend the 2013-14 academic year studying abroad in Qatar. He found the time to study, work, travel and practice fencing. He writes about his experience in the Middle East.
In the summer of 2012, I took my first trip to the Middle East through Boston College's Summer Study Abroad Program in Kuwait. On one of our side trips, we visited Qatar, a small country bordering Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, for the weekend to see the sites. It was incredible. During those four days, we visited Al Jazeera, the Museum of Islamic Art, Education City and many other places. I was impressed by Education City's purpose in providing students with the tools to be successful and further strengthen Qatar's economy. After my program in Kuwait, I knew that I wanted to return to continue to learn more about Qatar's rapid transformation and looked at study abroad programs there.
This year, I had the opportunity to return to Qatar and study in Education City and participate in EC's purpose. I studied at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) in Education City. At SFS-Q, my coursework focused on different aspects of the Middle East from politics to social movements, as well as coursework in International Relations. I decided to stay in Qatar for the year because the opportunities to learn and explore the world surrounding me was limitless and would foster inner growth.
My academic course work at SFS-Q was engaging; ranging from different areas and topics in the Middle East. One of my favorite courses focused on the Arab-Israeli Conflict taught by Professor Kamrava. His course was on the history of the area and how the conflict has changed over time and the personal narrative shared by both sides. The course challenged students to remain objective and to discuss events constructively. In a subject that invests an array of emotions, this was not an easy task but his guidance assisted in creating this environment. The following semester, I took his course on revolutions because he was knowledgeable about the field and his lectures were interesting. In addition, I conducted field work over the last year, interviewing different sectors of Qatari society and trying to understand how certain places have changed in 20 years.
This spring, I interned at Brookings' Doha Center. My responsibilities consisted of assisting fellows with research, tracking issues around the Middle East and editing papers and speeches. In addition, I attended monthly dialogues and recorded them. One of the highlights during my internship was attending Brookings Doha Center's annual Energy Forum in April. Oil politics has been one of my interests and the forum was my ticket to talking with politicians, academics and oil executives about oil's future in the world economy. It was an incredible experience to meet and discuss a topic that I am passionate about it. My brief time working for Brookings was an incredible part of my second semester in Qatar.
While I was abroad, I was able to continue fencing as I found a new home at Doha Fencers Club. I missed practicing at the Plex everyday but I trained at Doha Fencers Club with some talented fencers from the region. I was able to take lessons with Coach Christophe Clement, the founder of the Club. He has been an amazing mentor and has helped me not only improve my fencing, but also my French. We would only speak in French during my lessons. His philosophy was that French words for each action were more precise than in English. I practiced there a couple days a week fencing with a people from different areas of the world. In January, I watched the Fencing Grand Prix that was held in Qatar at Aspire Towers.
In addition, I traveled frequently throughout the region. I was living with Greek Orthodox monks in Crete in the fall and I camped out in the desert. Since returning to the United States, I came back a different person. I picked up a lot of new skills and newfound confidence in my work. My knowledge about the Middle East has grown beyond new boundaries and I am now confident in my ability to speak politics. My fencing has changed throughout the year and I picked up a couple ideas.
I am looking forward to return to Boston College as a student-athlete. I missed the day-to-day regiment of attending classes and lectures to evening fencing practices in the Plex. I missed studying in LRSA and attending meetings with the groups I am involved on campus. This fall, I will be writing my thesis while finishing my Political Science and Islamic Civilizations and Society major. Inspired from my time abroad, my thesis will focus on education and innovation in the Gulf. The fieldwork I conducted in Qatar will be used in part of my thesis explaining education trends.