Student Volunteers Report from Oman: Najma Elmi


April 2 2024

My name is Najma Elmi and I’m a recent graduate from SOAS, University of London with a degree in International Relations and Development Studies. Initially, I applied to the Student Volunteer Scheme because I’ve always had an interest in the Middle East, and learning Arabic has been a top priority. Oman, being known for its hospitable people and incredible nature, seemed like an incredible place to live and explore.

Prior to this scheme, I had worked in schools across London but being at The Sultan School here in Muscat was such a culturally immersive experience. I had the opportunity to attend many school trips to landmarks across Muscat as well as take part in school extra-curricular activities. Taking part in these activities were an incredible way to get to know the students outside the classroom environment. After expressing my personal interests and hobbies to other staff members, I began volunteering with the Year 7 girls football team - accompanying them to their tournaments with schools across Muscat. I really connected with the students living on campus as we spent time after school during study time helping with English and Maths - but also beyond academic support, we would play sports and chat amongst ourselves.

Year 7 girls match against ABA (American British Academy)

Year 4 trip to Engineering Village

Similarly, during my free time I had the chance to really travel across Oman and get to know the country - having visited nearly 7 different cities, all with distinct regional customs. During these solo trips, I met wonderful people who taught me so much about their regions and traditions.

Year 6 Scholar using my camera to take portraits

My time at The Sultan School coincided with the holy month of Ramadan and it was a beautifully wholesome experience to break fast with so many different people and families - although, it was extra special to have iftars with the scholars living on campus.

I’ve left Oman feeling like I’ve found a place I could potentially call home in the future, as this country really embraces you with its overwhelming generosity and kindness. It’s taught me so much about myself, my faith and Arab culture. The interactions, conversations and experiences I’ve had with people here have been wonderful and insightful as I now have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for Omani culture. I believe that part of truly understanding a society is interacting with its young people and that’s something that can only really be achieved with programs such as the Student Volunteer Scheme. It was also a great opportunity to share parts of my culture and upbringing with the students - some of whom had yet to travel beyond Oman.

I’ve really felt like a member of The Sultan School community and have developed great relationships with staff and my students - many of whom I’ve already promised that I’ll return to Muscat soon! Taking part in the Student Volunteers Scheme has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life thus far. I’m so grateful that programmes like this exist because I can’t think of a better way to immerse yourself in a new environment - but also I can’t think of a better period in life than this to do such an experience. Although my current plans for the near future include working with grassroot organisations helping vulnerable people (e.g. refugees, asylum seekers etc) in London - this scheme has helped me to also consider other career paths, such as teaching in the Middle East. I’ve gotten far more out of this experience than I could’ve ever wished for, and for that I am eternally grateful. Thanks to all the connections and networks I’ve made - Muscat for me now feels like a home away from home.

My advice to anybody interested in this scheme is to apply with an open-mind and heart, and be ready for all the adventures that await you on the other side. I’d encourage you to really put yourself out there and accept offers to attend/visit as many places as possible. Oman is a hidden gem of the Gulf, with so much to offer so make sure to travel beyond the capital whenever you get the chance!

Student Volunteers Oman Scheme Further Information:


The British Omani Society's Student Volunteers Oman Scheme (previously called the Anglo-Omani Society Gap Year Scheme) runs twice per year. The next Scheme dates are:

  • 2024 dates: Fri 13 Sept (arrive) - Thurs 12 Dec (leave)
  • 2025 dates: Fri 10 Jan (arrive) - Thurs 10 April (leave)

Deadline for applications: 30 May 2024

Find out more and apply here.

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