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Story | Education
6 July 2021

'Living alone and studying remotely was not enough to kill a positive spirit'

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Amna Sana, graduating from VCUarts Qatar, explains how Education City’s environment shaped her learning experiences in the pandemic

Living in a foreign country, studying remotely, and the COVID-19 pandemic. These are some of the challenges that Amna Sana went through. But none of these prevented her from excelling during her time at Qatar Foundation.

Through VCUarts Qatar, I was able to excel academically, and through the diverse QF community I was exposed to myriad cultures from around the world and experience the uniqueness of Qatar

Amna Sana

Sana, hailing from Pakistan, shared her experience of living and studying in a foreign country, specifically about her journey at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university. “This was the first time I was living in a foreign country on my own, and the thought of studying at a university such as VCUarts Qatar was exciting,” she said.

Amna Sana, VCUarts Qatar graduate.

“I learned about the various communities in QF – of women that supported each other, of students that were always ready to assist their colleagues, and of faculty that was beyond determined to see their students reach new heights.

“Through VCUarts Qatar I was able to excel academically, and through the diverse QF community I was exposed to myriad cultures from around the world and experience the uniqueness of Qatar.”

At VCUarts Qatar, Sana was exposed to the growing art and design world in Qatar and outside the country. She was taught to hone her confidence as a multidisciplinary designer and to produce design solutions that can cater to our ever-changing world.

Managing a master’s degree was not easy, and at times seemed impossible because of the pandemic and its resulting restrictions. However, that is precisely why the experience feels even more novel and wholesome

Amna Sana

In pursuing her masters, Sana spent two years at VCUarts Qatar and Qatar, and she believes that from the moment she signed the acceptance letter to the day she graduated, she has evolved in profound ways. “A change that will benefit me for years to come,” she says.

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For most students, graduating during a pandemic has its pros and cons – most definitely, students are facing several challenges in their academic experiences, but at the same time, remote learning has also meant that students are able to engage and indulge in other areas to enhance their skills. And Sana, like many other students, discovered unique learning opportunities that came with this disruption.

Everyone has been resilient in their own way during this testing time, especially faculty and students who have worked in tandem to ensure that education continues uninterrupted

Amna Sana

“Managing a master’s degree was not easy, and at times seemed impossible because of the pandemic and its resulting restrictions. However, that is precisely why the experience feels even more novel and wholesome. Everyone has been resilient in their own way during this testing time, especially faculty and students who have worked in tandem to ensure that education continues uninterrupted.

“They have tackled virtual learning and paved the way for a new era in teaching which goes beyond studio walls. The entire experience has taught me the value of persistence and hard work through which there can be endless possibilities even in trying times such as these.”

Sana obtained her Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) in Design from VCUarts Qatar – a course she took to transition from jewelry and accessory design to the interdisciplinary design so that she is able to broaden her skills into something she thoroughly enjoys doing.

In her graduation project, titled Third Culture Kids – Playing to Heal, she worked on understanding the need of play therapy for Third Culture Kids (TCK).

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Studies show that Qatar has been and continues to witness the growing presence of expatriate families over the past years. And with this growing population, the number of children born into the TCK experience continues to rise as well.

Sana says: “Motivated by my personal mission, my initial research revealed the importance and need of introducing play therapy to TCKs in Qatar. My thesis has been heavily influenced by a drive to help identify childhood issues with the aim of enabling therapeutic help at younger years to offset emotional pain and prevent severe trauma as the individual grows into adolescence and adulthood.”

Through her research, Sana explained that there is limited knowledge and resources on the topic, including a lack of play therapists in Qatar, and emphasized a need for more work in this area.

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