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Enrichment Program Sends Talented Emiratis Overseas to Learn English, Engage Culture

Al Qasimi Foundation
September 27, 2015

North African philosopher Augustine of Hippo famously said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Ras Al Khaimah’s Sheikh Saqr Student Enrichment Program is a proponent not only of books and reading, but also of international experiences. This summer, the program sent seven grade 11 Emirati students to the United States and United Kingdom to improve their English language skills and prepare for university studies.

“One of our goals for grade 11 and 12 students in the Student Enrichment Program is to familiarize them with the university cultures they may experience abroad. Our Summer Enrichment Experience is unique because it teaches students to learn in and from academic settings overseas,” explains Ms. Rasha Mohsen, Student Programs Associate at the Al Qasimi Foundation, which directs the Enrichment Program.

Five of the Emirati students attended the Summer English Academy at CCI Greenheart in San Francisco, California. The program combines intensive English lessons with recreational and cultural awareness activities.

“At Greenheart, I learned to depend on myself and how to control my time, and I am learning how to communicate well,” says Shahad Al Shehhi, a student at Julphar Secondary School. “This is also the first time I made friends from different nationalities.”

Along with participants from nine other countries, the Ras Al Khaimah students had a chance to experience American culture first-hand, including its university system. One of the academy’s first excursions was to the University of California at Berkeley, where the students explored college course offerings, campus life, and a dinosaur exhibit in the Valley Life Science building.

Another unique way students engaged with American culture was through service projects in the local Sonoma County community. The Academy promotes social responsibility by giving participants opportunities to volunteer in California and to brainstorm ways to leverage their talents for their own local communities. The Ras Al Khaimah students and their peers donated their time to the Redwood Empire Food Bank, preparing food that would benefit more than 1,500 local households.

“This program added a lot of values to my life, like how to be respectful, how to connect with others, and how to be yourself,” explains Aamna Al Zaabi, who attends Al Roya Secondary School.

Saeed Al Shehhi, who has begun his final year at Tunb Secondary School, built dynamic relationships while studying in the United States. He hopes to represent the United Arab Emirates by attending university overseas and returning to serve his country though specializing in IT security.

“I found the United States a great, very helpful country, and the citizens of the US always help you and give you what you need,” he says.

Two other Ras Al Khaimah students spent three weeks with the Oxbridge Summers (previously known as Heritage Summers) program at the prestigious Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Led by Dr. Asma Siddiki, formerly of the Dubai School of Government (now the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government), Oxbridge Summers is “dedicated to the academic, cultural, and social enrichment of secondary school students from around the world.”

Students at Oxbridge Summers refine their English soft and communication skills through core courses in their chosen subjects, which range from math to political science to art. These courses follow the traditional learning style of Oxford and Cambridge by arranging students in small tutorial groups. Here, students have space to contribute to discussions guided by their tutors.

“The tutorials provide an excellent platform for problem solving, independent thinking, and debate,” explains Dr. Siddiki, “and these skills are crucial for producing capable university students and global citizens alike.”

Oxbridge Summers steeps young people from more than ten countries in both diversity and history. Students hone their interpersonal skills and develop intellectual curiosity inside and outside of the classroom as part of a legacy of higher learning that continues on a centuries-old campus.

“We were studying in the city of Oxford. It’s such a historical place. I loved its ancient buildings and libraries,” says Aseel Al Teneiji, who attends Al Hudaiba Secondary, “and my program was very useful because I got to study mathematics more deeply.”

Sara Al Zaabi attends Al Sabahia Secondary School and also gained insight from her time in Oxford.

“After I studied in the UK, it became clear that I want to study political science to be able to understand and analyze the effect of politics on individuals and to be able to address important social issues, thus helping to improve our society,” she says.

Supporting the community in the UAE and Ras Al Khaimah remains part of the mission of the Student Enrichment Program, which believes that education is the foundation needed for social and economic success.

“As part of the Sheikh Saqr Student Programs, the Summer Enrichment Experience gives students a taste of what university life looks like overseas, while enabling them to improve their English and cross-cultural communication skills,” says Dr. Ridge, Executive Director of the Foundation, “and this opportunity supports our larger goal of equipping more talented Emirati students from Ras Al Khaimah to pursue university degrees abroad. In this way, they can better serve their communities with the knowledge and abilities they develop at university.”