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21 Khalifa University Students Participate in Virtual Study Abroad Program Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak

August 11, 2020

Khalifa University strives to provide its students with different learning opportunities to enhance their educational experience. For Summer 2020, KU planned to send 100 sophomore and junior students in a study abroad program to ten prestigious universities in the United States where they were to spend the summer semester taking classes and experiencing living abroad in the diverse environment of these top universities. The main goal of the program, called Sufara 2020, was to add to the students’ well-rounded education, exposing them not only to new classroom experiences but also cultural experiences at other campuses. It was also going to be an opportunity for the students to broaden their network and develop professional relationships.  
And then COVID-19 happened. The whole world was at a standstill as everyone dealt with the pandemic. With international travel restrictions in place, the original plan to send students was put on hold. However, 21 students were determined and rose to the challenge, deciding to continue with the program, albeit virtually. They have been attending summer online classes at Stanford University, Boston University, UCLA, and Arizona State University.
The virtual classes still offer an exciting learning opportunity for the students.
Shouq Derzada is enrolled at Stanford University, taking a course called Understanding Energy and Sustainability Design Thinking. “I knew that this experience would be challenging considering the current pandemic situation, but I’m also certain that it will be valuable,” she said.
She explains why she chose to take a course on energy: “One reason why I became interested in understanding energy is that energy has the most influence in climate change and it is indeed the main driver for human development. As a chemical engineering student, this course would help me further understand the fundamentals of each energy resource as well as the potential conversion processes and technologies. I have always been passionate and curious about energy and its resources. And I decided to take the sustainability design thinking course since the world nowadays is seeking sustainability in all aspects of life. This course would help me to learn design thinking techniques to promote sustainable design of products.”
“I consider myself lucky to be part of such a valuable program that allows me to experience new ways of learning, get to know new people, be exposed to different cultures, develop new academic skills, and enjoy this opportunity,” Shouq added.
Omar AlRemeithi has also chosen to take classes at Stanford University. From the very beginning, he had a definite plan of what he was going to take. Omar chose classes that complement the courses he is currently taking at KU.
“I am taking Signal Processing and Linear Systems I, which is equivalent to Signals and Systems at Khalifa University. Also, I’m planning to take Machine Learning as a technical elective,” he said. 
Ghalia Hamad Al-Qawadi Al-Hammadi, a Biomedical Engineering student, chose to enroll in Boston University because of the university’s excellent biomedical sciences program. She is currently taking two classes, Biology and Behavioral Biology of Women.
“My participation in the program will bring me a lot of advantages and help me in my studies in the future, especially that the two courses I have chosen are the basis of my field and they are taught theoretically and practically with the best specialists in the field of biomedicine, which will strengthen my foundation in my field in addition to the strong experience that I gained from my university. More than that, distance learning under these conditions with one of the best universities in the world will be a strong and distinctive addition to my CV,” she said.
Fares Aljaberi is taking a Materials Science class in University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). For him, the virtual classes can be challenging. “There are some difficulties that we face, which are paying attention, understanding, and participating. It has been harder to work on these three things during the online courses, but hopefully things will be better,” he commented.
Despite the unique circumstances, the students are excited and eager to learn new things. Omar particularly enjoys the “Virtual Residence Hall” experience at Stanford where he can virtually meet with his classmates and participate in different activities. And although they are not able to experience life at other campuses, the students still have gained additional knowledge and developed new connections.
Ara Cruz
Creative Writer
11 August 2020