Story by Katrine Melika
Students wrote stories like this one in the JRN 115 Intro to Media Writing course, taught by Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism – Editor.
Thirteen years in Qatar changes you.
Sophomore Hannah Marella has lived most of her life in the Middle East, experiencing an intersection between Arab, Indian and Jordanian cultures.
When Marella was three years old, her family moved to Qatar. When their contract expired, they were forced to move back to the United States.
“We moved back to the U.S. and moved back to our old house, went to the same church,” Marella said. “We realized we can’t do that. We can’t go back to how life was because three years in the Middle East definitely changed us.”
At the next opportunity, the family moved back to Qatar.
Marella has later returned to the United States to pursue higher education at Taylor University.
She misses a lot from her home country. The sights of the golden sand dunes and the taste of steaming shawarma solidified memories from her childhood.
Marella misses the people she left behind, including her church community. Much of her time was spent in youth groups and serving on the worship team. Her church offered her many experiences that ushered in growth and change.
Marella and her family went to Jordan on a missions project, working with refugees. She noticed that despite the adverse conditions of the refugees’ lives, many of them still lived with hope.
“There was definitely a huge difference between talking to non-Christians and Christian refugees because the non-Christian refugees … There was just no hope,” Marella said.
Many of the refugees she visited invited Marella’s family into their living space, even if that living space was only the basement of a building. She remembers the hospitality shown both by the Christian Jordanian refugees and the members of her church at a level uncommonly seen in North America. The culture of Qatar has many differences from connecting with people in the United States.
“You don’t really interact with people who you don’t know,” Marella said.
Here, people strike conversations with strangers in the aisles of grocery stores. This would not be so common in Qatar.
Other differences she noticed related more to the climate and geography of the two countries.
Because of the higher temperatures in Qatar, most activities are kept indoors, particularly amusement parks and ice rinks. Marella remembers one popular pastime is going to malls (of which Qatar has many) which easily shields shoppers from the humidity and heat.
While Qatar keeps events mostly inside, Marella noticed a lot of common American activities happening outside like picnics, grilling, parties and carnivals. When they would venture outside, they do so during the winter when the weather is more bearable. She recounted going to the souk, similar to a flea market, where many social interactions would take place.
Another difference is that there are more opportunities to travel. Travel tends to be cheaper because of how easy it is to get from one small country to another due to the density of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Western Asia, giving Marella many opportunities to experience other countries. The United States is larger and much more spread out, causing even intranational travel to be expensive.
This also means that many diverse cultures cross paths. Marella mentioned Arabs and Indians as two of the most represented people groups in Qatar. She said that she has a “fuller view of the world” and is glad to see outside of the American bubble.
The last difference Marella mentioned was her schooling. In Qatar, she was homeschooled, so Taylor has been a major change in her education.
She is pursuing a life-long dream of becoming an author through Taylor’s Multimedia Journalism program. Her childhood goals of writing a newspaper for her family and emailing short stories to her mom have grown into publishing a fantasy novel and possibly publishing a nonfiction work about her experiences in Qatar and Jordan.