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Qatari student reflects on Cultural Exchange Programme

5 August 2013

Qatar-UK 2013

Nahil Al-Askari, a student on the MA Museum and Gallery Practice degree programme at UCL Qatar, recently concluded a three week placement at the iconic Manchester Museum in the UK. Nahil was one of over 60 young professionals involved in the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture, Cultural Exchange Programme, which offers students and heritage professionals a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a placement or residency in the UK or Qatar.

Nahil shares her experience below:

I am currently in the final months of my MA in Museum and Gallery Practice at UCL Qatar, but I am writing this from Manchester Museum. Doha is a long way from Manchester, so you might be wondering how I ended up here. I guess my journey began when I started my studies at UCL Qatar. Throughout my professional life and degree programme, I have worked closely with a number of inspirational British professors and academics from UCL and Qatar Museums Authority, who have mentored and encouraged me to further develop my skillset. Special thanks should go to my director at QMA, Ms. Sue Underwood, who supported me to join UCL and continue my postgraduate studies, and to Dr. Karen Exell, who organised my placement in the Manchester Museum. Working with them further developed my interest in and curiosity for the UK, so when they suggested I participate in the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture student placement programme, I jumped at the chance.

Qatar UK 2013 is a year-long celebration of the relationship between Qatar and the UK that aims to cultivate mutual understanding between the two countries. Being invited to participate in the programme has been an eye opening experience and has allowed me to learn about UK culture and exchange ideas that I would not have been able to do otherwise.

The exchange programme could not have come at a better time since the Manchester Museum is currently developing their new programmes for school children. I have been able to use my knowledge and experience from teaching primary school children in Qatar to help develop two programmes for grade one students in Manchester. I have been working closely with the Early Years Coordinator, Elaine Bates, which has been ideal for my career development. Elaine and I have learnt a lot from each other, everything from cultural qualities to museum practices. Working on this project has been an unforgettable journey – Elaine and her colleagues have provided me with invaluable advice which I have incorporated into my dissertation.

During my time at the Manchester Museum I have not only learnt from my colleagues but have developed new skills from observing several useful sessions for school children and babies, which I will no doubt take back to QMA in Qatar. I have made some amazing new friends during my time in Manchester. I hope one day they will travel to Qatar so I can have the opportunity to show them the same hospitality they have offered me during my placement.

I was very excited when I discovered my placement was in Manchester as I have always loved the UK, but before this placement I had only ever visited London, Edinburgh and Dundee. I have found Manchester to be a culturally and historically rich city with charming architecture, exquisite parks and extremely friendly people. However I must admit one of my favourite weekend activities has been visiting the local fish and chip shop!

I am extremely grateful to my home country Qatar for giving me the opportunity to be educated at a world leading university and for enabling me to be part of Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture. I have learnt so much during my placement and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I would highly recommend other students take part in an international exchange during their student life if they have the chance.

About Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture

Qatar UK 2013 is a year-long cultural exchange programme between the United Kingdom and the State of Qatar, aiming to strengthen bilateral relations by creating lasting partnerships between institutions and individuals. Mutual recognition, understanding and appreciation of Qatari and British cultures are cultivated through over 60 entertaining and educational events throughout the year in both nations.

Qatar UK 2013 is coordinated by the British Council and Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) with the support of Platinum Sponsors Qatargas, Shell and Vodafone.

HRH the Prince of Wales is the UK Patron of Qatar UK 2013 and the Qatari Patron is Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani the second child of the previous Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani with Sheikha Moza.

To learn more about activities taking place in Qatar and the UK, visit the Qatar UK 2013 website.