Global Crossroads: University of Colorado Denver
For international students and their American peers, the University of Colorado Denver serves as a global crossroads that combines cultures, historical perspectives, and modern education. International students from more than 130 countries have been welcomed at the university, which is a highly ranked academic and health sciences institution with 13 schools and colleges and more than 130 degree programs. Set against the beautiful Rocky Mountains, the University of Colorado Denver is also the setting for a wide variety of international cultural events, hosted by one of the 100 student clubs on campus or one of the many cultural organizations throughout the city of Denver.
Liachao Sun’s first exposure to the rich heritage and cultural traditions of Qatar came in the form of an elegant and festive event hosted by the Qatari Student Association at the University of Colorado Denver. Sun is a student in International College Beijing, a joint education program between the University of Colorado Denver and China Agricultural University in Beijing, China. Students in the program have a choice of earning their undergraduate degree in communication, economics, or a dual degree, and of studying on the Beijing or Denver campus.
Sun, who heard about the Qatari event through the Office of International Affairs, was impressed with the wealth of information shared by the CU Denver Qatari students.
“It was my first time to learn many things about this country,” she said. “It was also the first time to learn about henna hand painting, and it was nice to learn that it is part of their culture and history. It is similar to some women’s painting in the Chinese culture and history.”
Sun also enjoyed the celebration dance performed by the Qatari students and several of their visitors, including Ambassador Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaihi.
“I liked that there was a story inside the dance. The students were really enjoying themselves,” Sun explained. She relished the Middle Eastern lunch that was served and commented that it was not her first time to savor this type of cuisine, acknowledging that she has visited several Middle Eastern restaurants in Denver.
Sun said she came with some existing ideas about the Middle East and the day’s activities had made her more curious about the region’s traditions and history, as well as given her a new perspective.
“Now, I really want to get a chance to visit Qatar. It’s a mysterious country to me; I just have a little knowledge and some views about the Middle East. But I think I would like to go there to really learn more.”
Lively classroom conversations with international students from Qatar fueled University of Colorado Denver student Marissa Bennett’s growing interest in seriously considering Qatar as a destination for graduate studies in art history. Through discussions with her Qatari friends, further research, and the experiences of her CU Denver Global Education study abroad program in the Middle East, Bennett learned that the Gulf countries, Qatar in particular, are experiencing a new trend of awareness and urgency to preserve their culture, arts and heritage.
“I came from another American university that did not have the same diversity that I find here at the University of Colorado Denver. When I can study alongside international students, I’m learning about another culture from an authentic source,” explained Bennett. “I’m interested in applying for a master’s program that focuses on museum and gallery studies and include the cultural arts and heritage of Qatar, as well as those of the greater Middle East region.”
Bennett was intrigued with the art and art history of the Middle East at an early age. In grade school, she perused art and art history books and found the calligraphy and imagery of the Islamic cultures to be beautiful.
“As an art history major, my goal is to pursue master’s studies in Middle Eastern art and culture, eventually working as a cultural ambassador, promoting Islamic and Arabic arts and heritage to Western art institutions, through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. In addition, my dream job is to work for UNESCO, preserving heritage sites around the Middle East.
Bennett explained her interest in Qatar: ”This country has good institutions and provides quality degree programs; it’s a good place for American students to study. After having spent last fall semester studying abroad in the Middle East, I have become increasingly interested in the culture and heritage of this important, historically interesting region of the world.”