January 17th, 2014
Flight from Doha -> Washington D.C. -> Syracuse
I am still struggling to accept what happened in the past three weeks, having been in a coma on this plane for the past 10 hours definitely does not help. I guess I will try to clear things up as I talk & verbalize my feelings:
As you might or might have not known, I was volunteering in South Africa over winter break. It was definitely the most life-changing 2 weeks of my life. After saying bye to the volunteers and the kids, I headed to Doha, Qatar for the 2022 Women’s Soccer Challenge competition.
Just to give you some background information, Qatar is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and they sent out a brief, through EdVentures Partners to 33 selected US and Canadian universities, to encourage Qatari girls between the ages of 6 and 17, to play football (soccer). At the same time, the research and strategy need to take the Qatari cultural sensitivities into consideration, as well as the Qatar 2030 National Vision, which ranges from human to economic development for Qatar.
When I received this brief back in September 2013, I really considered requesting for another brief. Really, though, where was I gonna start to do any kind of research? How can I possibly assemble the right information for this “Impossible Brief,” as I called it throughout the semester?
Time flew by, and the team had a lot of bumps along the road. As a 5-person team consisting all seniors with no faculty supervision and minimum resources, I couldn’t even imagine being in Qatar. Even though I was impressed by our first round of submission, I had no faith in placing as one of the top 3 finalists at the time…until December 22nd, the day before we were supposed to find out about the top 3 finalists, when I received an email from the EdVentures Partners Account Manager asking me to confirm the team’s availability to travel to Qatar IF we were in the top 3. This email was such a surprise as I was on the couch and drinking wine. I immediately called my teammates, telling them that we had been placed in the top 5 and the final notification would come in the next day.
The next 27 hours were torture! While the email, sent at 9pm, said that the decision would be made in the next 24 hours, it wasn’t till 11pm the next day that I received the only email (so far) that had made me scream so loud in public. I could not get off of my phone because I was too busy calling my teammates, my parents, and posting on every social media outlet possible.
When I was flying to Doha on Qatar Airways, I guess I did not really take the time to fully accept this opportunity I was fortunate enough to have to go explore yet another country. It was not until when I landed and was transported from the airport to the W Hotel in a BMW that I had fully realized how amazing this was. All paid for hotel, meals, transportation, and most importantly an opportunity to see such a fascinating country before the world sees it in 2022.
With about 90% of the nation’s population living in its capital, Doha, you can clearly see how rapid the country is evolving. While the central business district area is filled with skyscrapers, areas around the central business area are all under construction with amazing future plans such as the Qatar National Museum.
Eating lunch at 360 on top of The Torch, Doha at the Aspire Academy, having dinner on a boat on the Persian Gulf, and going on a desert safari, Doha was nothing but a paradise to me. Everyday was so planned out with three-meal courses for lunch & dinner, three hours apart starting after a breakfast buffet. Q22 stands for gaining 22 pounds in Qatar!
While the fun parts are very fun, we went to Doha for the Q22 Women’s Soccer Challenge advertising competition. During the week, we would get home from all the fun activities at 10pm and would start working on perfecting the presentation until 1 or 2am while we would have to wake up at 7 for another day of activities.
No sleep + stress + trying to have fun = recipe for the most memorable week I’ve ever had in my life. By the time presentation day came, the team and I had already passed the point of being nervous. Between ironing my shirt and pants, having lunch with the judges and some professors who will be sitting in the audience, and having last run-throughs, I couldn’t find time to be nervous about standing on a stage and giving a pitch to an audience of supposedly 100 people.
The overall experience is indescribable. I can’t seem to find the appropriate vocab in my brain to properly describe the scenery I saw while I was there… I truly had one of the most amazing weeks of my life. Many people have asked me if I personally believe that Qatar is ready to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup…the amount of resources and energy the Qatari government puts into investing the growth of the country as well as its citizens is truly astonishing. One does not simply envision where Qatar will be in 2022, so my answer is yes; if Qatar can’t do it, I don’t believe any other country can.
school starts today…blah
ps. I tweeted out that last picture the second we found out that we had won the competition…little did I know that it became the “official” picture that was included in all of the press releases. If I had known, I would have photoshopped my face a little. ugh.