Campus buildings are empty and classrooms have moved online, but at Georgetown University in Qatar, a Qatar Foundation partner university, student groups are maintaining a sense of community by taking their service activities into the virtual realm too. From wellness workshops to question and answer sessions with experts, GU-Q clubs are reaching out, keeping the community informed, and ensuring that students at QF have a great student experience, despite the crisis.
Waqar Basit Butt, an International Economics major and president of the Mental Health Awareness Club, was one of the first to bring club activities online. In the same week the nationwide closure of schools and universities was announced for health and safety reasons, students organized “Mindful Conversations,” an engaging group discussion with counselors in the Student Wellness and Counseling Center (SWCC) at GU-Q, including SWCC Director Mahnaz Mousavi and Assistant Director Elena Khoury.
While the club had to cancel activities originally planned to take place on campus, said Waqar, “The nature of our activities allowed us to easily shift to an online platform since it is mainly discussion-based, which can be done effectively online as well.”
The student club “Brainfood”, which gives students a chance to share a casual conversation over a meal with a staff or faculty member, also saw a need for a quick online transition. Club president Abeedah Diab, a junior majoring in International History, said the move allowed their group to provide “a chance to talk with others, a chance to get to know the invited guest, and most importantly in this period, a chance to ask questions and discuss the current situation.” Food, she clarified, was optional this time.
The first online meet-up featured Brendan Hill, Senior Associate Dean for Students at GU-Q. He answered questions about the impact of the new online environment, encouraged students to share their digital transition strategies, and offered background on his own personal academic experiences and research interests.
Participating students dialed in from Doha, and around the world. Brainfood vice president and International Politics sophomore Haider Umair Ahmar, who led the group discussion from his home in Pakistan, said that “While we are all apart, it’s more important than ever that we still try to see other people as much as we can through other mediums.”
The group already has a speaker lined up for their next meeting. “Now, it’s about realizing that there are people on the other side of that screen who care, who know, and who matter.” Referring to the popular term for a Georgetown student, Haider stressed that the university’s commitment to research, academic excellence, and community service doesn’t change based on geography. “Hoyas are Hoyas, regardless of where they are.”