A once popular study abroad option for Northwestern students, Oman, is a Middle Eastern country that shares borders with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The United Nations declared that Oman is the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the past 40 years. Oman’s history is marked by a peaceful existence while maintaining a decent population of Christians and Muslims in the country – making it an anomaly in the world that two groups who are initially at odds live together communally.
For NW, Oman has served as an amazing study abroad option for its inter-religious relations and peaceful culture. The only issue is that the last study abroad to this country was spring of 2019.
“The best way for us to recruit students for this study abroad is to hear from past students who went on the trip, but these students have since graduated,” Kendall Stanislav said.
Stanislav has been the director of experiential education since January 2020. Some of the work that Stanislav and Sarah Pemberton, marketing and administration coordinator for the Compass Center, do includes: recruiting students, ensure the best academic quality in the study abroad programs and help students prepare for international travel.
One of the eager recruits for the Oman study abroad was Junior Micah Van Kalsbeek. Van Kalsbeek applied her freshman and sophomore year, but both trips were cancelled due to COVID.
“I was interested in Oman because I have always been curious about the middle Eastern culture,” Van Kalsbeek said. “The little things I think I know about the culture is so interesting and different from my own, which gave me the desire to travel to the Middle East and experience it for myself.”
Another aspect of the Oman semester that piqued her interest was what life looked like for the women in that culture compared to her own. After discovering the Oman trip wasn’t happening the second time around, Van Kalsbeek studied abroad to Romania in fall 2021.
Stanislav said that they are going to run the Oman semester for spring 2023. With that in mind, Nathan Klahsen and Jillian Simon have applied for the Oman study abroad.
Klahsen is a sophomore Christian education and worship arts double major.
“The interreligious relations between Islamic culture and Christianity is something that I have seen the church struggle with,” Klahsen said. “This trip would give me a way to immerse myself into a different culture.”
Simon is a sophomore public relations and business administration double major. She believes that the world needs more empathy towards differences.
“I would love to learn from people that had different life experiences than me, that eventually led them to a different spot than me,” Simon said. “It takes a big step to break out of your norm to expand your empathy by learning something new.”
She hopes that she can immerse herself into the Oman culture to expand her worldview and capacity for empathy.
“It is always fun to see the students’ excitement prior to going; being around the high level of anticipation is enlightening,” Stanislav said.
Welcoming the students back to campus and debriefing is something that Stanislav enjoys because the students get to communicate how they’ve seen themselves grow new perspectives and what they’ve learned about themselves and others.
Previous NW students have even sat down and had tea with the Sultan of Oman.
“To sit down with the head of the country shows that our program over there is respected,” Stanislav said.
Other experiences include riding camels, learning Arabic and watching the sea turtles hatch on the beaches.
“We are hopeful to rebuild the future of the Oman study abroad,” Stanislav said.
For more information about the Oman semester, visit the Compass Center.