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    Posted March 17, 2014 by
    United Arab Emirates
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    Scholars and Skyscrapers


    I was birthed in the year 1992 and named Kamra Sadia Hakim. I am currently a third-year undergraduate scholar at Arizona State University, majoring in Global Studies with thematic focuses in Social Transformation, Digital Culture, and Arabic Studies. I am fortunate enough to attend a university that sets studying abroad as a graduation requirement for my major. As a proud Gilman scholar, I feel blessed by my circumstances and opportunities. Upon acknowledging my burning passion for the Arabic language, I chose to study abroad in the United Arab Emirates.


    As an American, I have always viewed the world from a western perspective. Being abroad has opened my eyes to so many different views and ways of life. I feel like I am finally learning about the world in its actuality. As culture shock sets in, I realize that systems, countries and places differ in policy, political thought and public ideology. For example, while the mainstream goal in America is to pursue a successful life as an individual without the aid of the federal government, the UAE works hard to ensure that all Emirati scholars receive a free college education, housing and living expenses. It is hard to adjust living amongst the top 5 percent most privileged humans in the world, as I come from a middle-class family in Phoenix, Arizona.


    While the population of the UAE is only 15 percent native, I have learned so much about Arab culture, as I have befriended people from Egypt, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and many other countries within the Middle-East and North African region. While English is spoken the majority of the time, I have been placed in an intermediate Arabic course, instructed by world-renowned linguists.


    The UAE is a business-hub, and as I have only been here for about a month, I was given the opportunity to be featured in a Nestle Wellness commercial that will air all over the UAE on March 5, to promote a healthier country. The UAE has one of the highest diabetes rates in the entire world. Working with the producer of this project was an experience within itself, as she has offered to connect me with public relations internships in Dubai over the summer. I cannot speak on where this experience will take me just yet; however, I know that it will grant me opportunities and experiences that I never thought possible.


    I am set to graduate from Arizona State University in May of 2015, and while I do not have my eyes set on a career, but rather a way of life, I don’t find it hard to conquer that my professional life may begin in Dubai. The dream is that I will graduate and continue to work as a catalyst for the ONE Campaign. The ONE Campaign is a grassroots advocacy organization that focuses on the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases. Over the past decade, our effort to collaborate with the U.S. Federal government has saved more than 50 million lives, and has decreased mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS down to 2 percent. These results are incredible, and after having personally been thanked by African mothers for saving their lives during my internship in South Africa in 2012, I feel endowed to commit my life to service.


    I anticipate law school after ASU, and then I hope to use my leadership in international law to create policy for humanity, not against it. Many sectors, private and public, are looking for well-rounded, bilingual individuals who are seeking world change through their collegiate experiences. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to see the world and my life through this lens.


    The world is a big and scary place and I can understand why some scholars are afraid to embark on this beautiful journey. Growing up, my biggest fear was not being fulfilled. I strived so desperately to create a life for myself that would be and currently is, the life that I have always imagined. As a happy, young, loving and aspirant human, I am enthralled by the perpetual cycles of life that have taught me the distinction between perception and circumstance. In modernity, often times we forget that our lives and who we are and who we aspire to become, are not defined by our circumstances. Our lives are characterized by the choices that we make and the success that we achieve, despite our circumstances. I refuse to subscribe to the belief that my circumstances define who I am or who I will become. Nor will I allow my circumstances to prevent me from advancing in my personal development and the achievement of my personal goals. To believe in a circumstance, is to have faith in a fear that forever hinders an individual from personal achievement. Coming to the UAE has taught me more about myself than I could ever imagine. Studying abroad alone, gives you the confidence and the drive to dream your life into existence. Holding oneself back from a study abroad experience is a huge disservice to the individual, the individual's community and the world at large. As much as the world changes you, you in turn change the world. I can't wait to return back to the States and share my experiences and educate my peers and family members about the misconceptions held over the Middle East by most western points of view. Studying abroad opens your eyes to things you never thought possible. For most, it’s a little incomprehensible that I still firmly believe in my childlike fantasies about my abilities to change the world. Living in the UAE has solidified these abilities. I am no longer afraid to fail, and I am gradually become an ideal human being and global citizen.


    I want to close by sharing a touching story. A couple of weeks after I had arrived in the UAE, I made friends with a beautiful Emirati woman named, Mariam. She took Simone Young, Danielle Catalan and I to a wonderful cultural center called Global Village. The hospitality that we received was beyond me, as she paid for our meals, rides and a variety of other treats. We argued for about five minutes because she refused to let us pay for anything. I have never in my life, met a human being as kind and as generous as Mariam. I live to give and receive positive energy, and Mariam showed us love in so many ways. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it much longer, her family gifted us with cashmere scarves and traditional Thai fruit as we were leaving the center. People whom I have known for years don’t treat me with this level of kindness, and Mariam and her family have completely restored my faith in humanity. This was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I never want to leave the UAE.


    With an open mind, the possibilities are endless. I am not worried about money/finances. I am not worried about being the most beautiful woman in the room. I am not worried about anything, really. I am alive and that is enough. Studying abroad will give you the courage to think, do and live out loud.

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