Posted by in Features.

The CAO from Doha

by thereluctantemigrant


Back in my day, you could do it with the teacher, 10 minutes is all it took, bobs your uncle, fannys your aunt, all done. That’s right, back in 1993 there was no faffing around for months pondering your options on the CAO form, travel wasn’t an option, the tech or university, both down the road, take your pick.

The options were set out to me as follows, Arts or Computers in university or catering in the technical college. An early finisher at not quite 16, I was clueless as to the options, I didn’t like drawing and apart from playing flimbos quest on our commodore 64, I was no computer genius either. Catering, not for me. I suggested Journalism was shot down straight away, better off go for something practical like Dental nursing or a typing course, get work straight away.

This week in our house in Doha the time has come, we are filling out the CAO with our eldest. The consideration and consultative measures taken to complete this form has been extensive, first off, the advice is study what you like, what makes you happy, calls with the various IT’s and Uni’s at home to clarify entry requirements, and phew she’s just making the minimum compulsory requirement of completing 5 years in the Irish education system. Internet searches, skype calls with persons who know persons that completed a course and after about two years, we’re ready to submit the options.

However, the course options have only been part of the process as living in Qatar and seeing your child starting college four and a half thousand miles away evidently dredges up a whole host of problems. See if you were from Clonakilty and sending your child to college in Cork the issue would be finding a house and leaving your chick in the big smoke to fend for herself for five nights in a newly refurbished house in Bishopstown, with only a suitcase of clean clothes a ruck sack of home cooking, 60 euro spending money, phone credit and a hot water bottle in case, would she survive until Friday? Anyone’s guess, if things did get tough you could always meet her for tea on a Tuesday evening, give her a top up twenty and words of reassurance to get her through to Friday when she be on the bus home, case full of dirty washing and an empty rucksack ready to be re-filled.

Sending them 4,500 miles away is bit different, with the added handicap of having a sheltered upbringing in the safer than safe middle east it is daunting to say the least to contemplate opening the pen door and setting them free. With no option for you to visit on a Tuesday evening and no option for them to come home on a Friday evening, it’s bound to be a baptism of fire. And that in mind a strange thing happens here in the middle east among parents of teenagers. You find yourself under pressure to impart all the worldly knowledge you know in the final months before they go.

Expats seems to have a particular hang up about their kids not being able to get a bus of use a ATM machine. With more stamps in their passports than the local post office and a frequent flyer card for Etihad, it’s hard to see how if they can manage to get a plane from halfway across the world, that they wouldn’t figure our how to get the number 8 bus, and surely if they need the fifty bad enough they’ll manage the ATM, so I don’t have those hang-ups, I have other ones.

I feel that the undoing of them living abroad independently of me will be their inability to clean the drawer of the washing machine. The grease that will lodge on the top of the kitchen cupboards, bound to be another pitfall and mixing whites with darks a sure-fire way to end your third level education. Defrosting chicken properly, the safe storing of leftovers and toast bits in the butter and I don’t even want to think about the state of the iron if they iron a motif on a t-shirt….just how will these kids survive abroad, at home, but for all intents and purposes, abroad.