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WVU Potomac State students experience life in Riffa, Bahrain


Students from West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus and the Potomac State College campus in Keyser spent spring break 2019 in the Kingdom of Bahrain, an island located on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf, to attend the Royal University foStudents from West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus and the Potomac State College campus in Keyser spent spring break 2019 in the Kingdom of Bahrain, an island located on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf, to attend the Royal University for Women.  PSC’s students included Hosanna Barrett (second from left, standing) and Brittany Nelson (fourth from left, standing).  

Students from West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus and the Potomac State College campus in Keyser spent spring break 2019 in the Kingdom of Bahrain, an island located on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf, to attend the Royal University for Women. 

The RUW was founded in 2006 by four brothers, all WVU alumni, who wanted to create opportunities and increase women’s access to a high-quality education in the Middle East.  Since 2015, a total of 53 students from WVU’s campuses have traveled to Bahrain during spring break.  

Two Potomac State College students, Hosanna Barrett and Brittany Nelson, traveled to Bahrain for a first-hand experience learning about Middle Eastern culture, the people, the food, and their religion.  

“I heard about the trip through the Honors Program at Potomac State and just knew that this was something I wanted to do!  This is an opportunity that I didn’t realize I would have at a smaller college,” said Barrett, a general studies major from Keyser.   

The excitement of the trip was evident as the students relayed their memorable experiences; both agreeing that visiting the open-air markets, called souqs, was one of their favorite things to do.  “The souqs were so interesting and so different because you bartered for everything and they had so many different things for sale,” stated Nelson, a business administration major from Green Spring, W.Va.

During their time at the University in Bahrain, Barrett and Nelson interacted with the student government, sat in on classes and participated in debates.  According to Barrett, “It was exciting having a cross-cultural debate with students from the Royal University for Women and learning that ideas don’t come in a one-size-fits-all formula.  And how awesome is it that WVU has a global presence there!”  

The students visited the Royal Camel Farm, where they interacted with many of the calves as well as grown camels.  They were given a historical view of their host country while touring Riffa Fort, which was built in 1812.  While visiting the Al-Fateh Mosque, which boasts the largest fiberglass dome in the world, students were educated on the architecture, library and Islamic Center within the mosque.  They also toured the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Naval Support Activity in Bahrain.  Additionally, students were invited to have dinner with a local host family where they learned more about Bahrain’s food and culture. 

Both students acknowledged that everyone was very nice and welcoming.  “I met people that I still chat with often and would love to spend a semester studying at the Royal University,” Nelson stated.

“Even though we were in another country with an entirely different culture, it was great to realize that teens and students in Bahrain were just like teens and students here,” Barrett said.  

Prior to the Bahrain trip, Barrett spent time in Malawi, Africa on a mission’s trip, while Nelson traveled to Italy as an exchange student.  “It was really warm when we landed in Bahrain and because the landscape is mostly desert, there’s lots of palm trees and sand.   But it was still beautiful, especially the water in the Persian Gulf which is extremely blue,” Nelson said.

According to the International Student website, studying abroad offers many beneficial experiences, including enriching students’ perspectives, learning about different cultures, and showing increased gains in academic performance.  So what advice do Barrett and Nelson have for fellow students?   

 “Travel if you get the chance.  Or better yet, make it a point to travel.  Don’t be afraid to go even if you don’t know anyone else in the group.  I didn’t know anyone else, but I’ve made friendships that will probably last a lifetime,” Nelson said. 

“Learn about different cultures, different religions, and people outside of your comfort zone.  Traveling gives you a healthy perspective because you don’t really know what a place is like until you’ve been there.  Traveling is a life-changing experience, embrace it!” added Barrett.

Students interested in the 2020 Bahrain trip are urged to check it out.  This link gives you an overview of the trip, along with the academic component, cost, travel-related health information, and financial aid and scholarships.  The deadline for applying to the 2020 Bahrain trip is Nov. 1. 

For additional information or any questions, email Paula.Fitzgerald@mail.wvu.edu or Susan.Lantz@mail.wvu.edu.