Archive for December, 2015

My 2015 in 4000 words

Posted: December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

2015 is coming to an end, and it’s one of the few years I would always want to talk about and retell its stories, even when I am too old to remember what I just had for breakfast two hours later. So this is for my seventy-something year old self -in case she makes it this far- to read, and mentally hug twenty-one year old me as she reminds her of some of what she might be struggling to remember. 2015 is one of the few years that have taught me real life lessons that I find hard to forget. A couple of years ago, if someone had told me this was all going to happen to me in the span of a year, I might have had a hard time believing it. And so I am spending the remaining days of the year listing its major events and the lessons learned from them, because this is a year I truly want to have engraved in my memory for years to come.

The year started with me being in charge of my most favorite student organization ever, and getting the opportunity to connect with more than 100 members, who each had their very own impact on my life. January 2015 was full of firsts. The first time I take part in the organization of a camp (and not just any camp, but Glow’s!). The first time I prepare and deliver a training. The first time for me to understand what crisis management really means. Taking part in bringing Glow’s 2015 Camp to life could very easily be considered the achievement of my life. Everything we went through that month is probably still affecting me until this day. The fact that over a month’s work was going to be cancelled two nights before it was scheduled to happen, and the fact that our values were greatly challenged throughout the entire process, yet everything still fell into place, changed so much about the way I perceive things around me, and the way I perceive myself as a matter of fact. Losing sleep over the preparations and camp meetings is something I will forever miss. And coming back after four days to realize that the effect we were hoping to witness among the camp members could never be compared to the effect they had among the organizers themselves, is something I will forever be thankful for.

Spring 2015 is a whole different story. Academically, I have unexpectedly fallen in love with Auditing but started developing so much hatred for finance (which rapidly increased throughout the fall semester). Yet still, it thankfully was a smooth semester both at AUC and Ain Shams. Besides academics, despite it being one of the most stressful semesters of my life on other aspects, I know that if I had the opportunity to go through it all over again, I won’t hesitate for a second. This semester taught me so much about life that I don’t think I would have learned anywhere else. It taught me that the bad experiences we face are never really considered bad if we happened to learn just one lesson from them. That one beautiful thing about tough times is how they will give you so many stories to tell whenever you need to cheer a friend who might be passing through something similar. That regrets should only serve as a reminder of why you should not take the same route again, not a reason to stay focused on what has already happened while refusing to turn your head around and look forward to what is yet to. It taught me that hard work will always pay off. That God will never give you more than what He believes you can handle, even though it never seems like it at the time, but you will eventually realize how even stronger you come out of tough phases, every time. That tests can come in the form of people, but that they will never be able to do you any good or any harm if God hasn’t already planned that for you, for a certain reason.

It taught me that leadership is not about acquiring the skills to “lead” people, but rather having the capacity to allow them to lead you whenever they can. That it’s mainly about pushing them to realize their own potentials, not showing them what you think you’re capable of. That developing others will only work if you sincerely decide to work on developing yourself. That everyone needs (and deserves) to feel good about themselves every once in a while, no matter how strong or “cold” they might seem to you. It taught me that it’s never about “learning how to deal with people”, but rather learning that every person you meet has a unique character that deserves to be wholeheartedly explored before making any assumptions. Because despite how similar everyone might seem, we are still very different, and every person has their own special key. It also taught me that satisfaction will always top happiness and that success isn’t always measured by tangible output if you realize that a real difference has been made. But most importantly, it showed me how heartwarming it is to believe in a cause with your entire being, and how rewarding it can be to realize you have inspired others to do the same. That no matter how discouraging others around you might become, it should never stop you from fighting for what you believe in, because there will always come a time when they realize how wrong they were for refusing to believe in you.

It was also the first time for me (and hopefully not the last) to travel to Asia and visit the beautiful Indonesia, which completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. It made me realize how tiny we really are, relative to the size of this world and all what it holds. It made me realize how little I know about the world. I got me in contact with people who made me realize the importance of having a dream, and the beauty of passionately believing in the possibility of it coming true. Getting exposed to different cultures and traditions changes something inside that I am rarely able to put in words. It’s like no other experience. This was the first time I truly fall in love with the idea of traveling, and I am sure it’s just a step towards more adventures!

Summer 2015:

  • Our first family reunion in two and a half years; the six of us, in one place. Ramadan was different. Eid prayers were back to the old maseera. Family trips were back, and I got to share a room with my beautiful sister who finally made me feel good about the introvert in me after a year of not being able to explain it to anyone else.
  • Help Club’s preparations for the reception, which got me in contact with some amazing human beings.
  • My second Accounting internship, which made me fall even more in love with my major and convinced me that this is what I’m certainly meant to do.
  • And lastly, even though I have felt different throughout most of my life, it was the first time I lose a job because of a racist lady who did not even have the courage to tell me I was not accepted because of my Hijab and the way I dress. She might have had a negative impact on my life at the time, but she certainly managed to show me why I should hold even tighter to my Hijab and my identity. It’s such a shame to be discriminated against in one’s own country, but it’s a good thing for someone like me who would have had a hard time despising this country if I had ever felt it was “home”.

Then came the time for a completely different experience that my freshman self wouldn’t have thought it could ever happen; a semester abroad in Washington DC. One of the best experiences of my life. That was a real “firsts” phase, with a lot of firsts occurring simultaneously. The first time to start school in a place where I knew absolutely no one. The first time to get in contact with such an enormous amount of diverse people. The first time to live on my own for four months. The first time to share rooms with someone for more than a week. The first time to have to take care of my own food, shopping and laundry. The first time to use public transportation that frequently. The first time to have to pray in public. The first time to understand what it feels like to live in a country where Muslims are a minority. Everything I experienced there was basically a first for me, which beautifully showed me how everything has to have a first, after which something inside slowly fades away, and you find yourself accepting (and actually going after) more firsts everywhere you go.

Among all the lessons I have learned throughout Fall 2015, the importance of holding on to one’s values and beliefs is one I’ll forever cherish. Being in a place where no one knows anything about who you are/were allows you to understand whether you believe in what you believe in because you truly think it’s the right thing, or whether it’s because you’ve just grown used to it since most people around you are more or less the same. Always being the only person who says no to a certain something requires so much extra effort, and so much extra understanding. Having a distinctive appearance makes people question your beliefs all the time, and being able to find answers to things you have never realized they might actually sound weird to others who do not share your background, makes you fall even more in love with what you might have previously considered just the “norm”. As hectic and energy draining as it is to be expected to represent a certain identity/religion all the time, nothing compares to the moment you realize you were a reason for clearing a certain misconception, or explaining something about it that someone finds so beautiful. I don’t think I have ever believed in the person I am/represent more than I did after this semester was over.

I also realized how blessed I am for having someone in my life I am required to talk to five times a day. Whenever I felt down and turned to God, I would find it necessary to thank Him for allowing me to talk to Him whenever and wherever I want, while so many people out there might be crying themselves to sleep every night because they think no one understands what they go through. Alhamdulillah a million times for having a heart that never doubts His existence. Alhamdulillah for never getting the urge to take my Hijab off. My Hijab that would make bus drivers greet everyone with a “Hi” but turn to me and say “Assalamu Alaykom” instead. My Hijab that would make every other Muslim girl smile at me and say Assalamu Alaykom everywhere I go even if we had never met before. My Hijab that made fast food servers change their gloves whenever they served me, in case they had held something I do not eat. My Hijab that made professors recognize me on their own every time they read the Mohamad in my name. My Hijab was my stance against everything that took place in America for the last couple of months; one of the ways I could clearly state that the actions of a few doesn’t and will never define who I am. A blessing that has been an essential part of my life for almost 9 years, and even more to come insha’Allah.

This semester made me realize the importance of languages, cultures, as well as the importance of “acceptance”. Before leaving Egypt, I thought I understood what diversity means, or how acceptance ought to be. The day I met the international students group for the first time made me realize how little I know, and every day I spent there, taught me a new meaning or showed me a new side of acceptance. My Sociology class in particular taught me a lot about racism, class, gender and sexuality, including LGBTQA issues, as well as the lives of people with disabilities. I realized that America is just as messed up as any other country in the world, it just deals with slightly different aspects of the same matters.

Fall 2015 was the first semester in the last three years of my life that I get to spend away from Glow. Yet it is one of the most semesters through which I have felt the impact that this place has on my life, despite the distance. Glow wasn’t exactly where I learned how to hold on to my values, but it was rather where I learned how to be proud of them. How to be proud of being different. How to stop doubting what my heart believes in. This was very apparent in everything I did or went through this semester, and for that I’m just extremely grateful. Glow has also somewhat taught me how to free myself from attachments. A few weeks before leaving Egypt, I was actually devastated about the idea of leaving Glow and its people behind, yet it has shown me why it was important to move on and quit clinging on to the past. My semester was an awesome one alhamdulillah, and if I had spent it reminiscing about last year, I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. It all showed me how life is mostly about phases, and that is why it’s really important to refuse to stay in a phase when it’s evident that it is time to move on to the next. It is more about maturity, and understanding that everything will happen when it’s meant for it to. I still miss Glow’s days for sure, and I will always do, but missing something is one thing, and refusing to enjoy what is next because you are completely occupied with the thought of that previous something is a totally different thing. I’m glad I learned it this year.

December 2015 is when I came back to Egypt, and even though I knew what I should be expecting, I’m still sadly unable to spend a single day without complaining about having to live in this country. Tiny details started annoying me so much, like how Egyptians do not understand the concept of “lines”/organization or how they just adore breaking rules everywhere they go. Or how a “مصر بتفرح” poster was the first thing I still saw the minute I got off the plane, and how our brilliant army are granting themselves the privilege of literally owning entire streets in an already overcrowded Egypt. All the way to the Egyptian mentality itself and how we’ve started losing our essence because we’re busy trying to imitate things we don’t even understand. I could keep on listing the things that make me sick about this place, but there is just no point. We used to point them out before, because we had hope in finding solutions to change them. But I haven’t actually met a single hopeful person so far, and the people I have met who still refuse to leave this country, openly admit that they are only staying because their families are here. I really wanted to end such an eventful year with some positivity, but this year was sadly the year I lost the last glimpses of hope I was trying to hold onto, and there is absolutely nothing I can change about that.

When I was a young girl (and until recently), I used to believe that small actions will make huge differences in this country, and that several small acts combined would certainly change this place. As I grew older, I started accepting the fact that the people in power are the only ones who have the ability to turn this country upside down, and that if only we could have a respectful president and cabinet, along with a representative parliament, they would certainly be able to push this country a little forward. At this point, I actually do not believe in either. The people don’t want to change, and the figures in power will never even try. I don’t see a way out. I don’t even have the energy to try and see a way out. Which is something that is very hard to admit, especially for someone like me. A little over two years ago, I was a firm believer in change and I never wanted to leave this place (even for vacation) because I believed I had the power to make a difference. But with people like Aya Hegazi, Alaa Abdelfattah, Massouny, Esraa El Taweel and thousands of other names still going through all what they’re facing, five years after what was supposed to be a “revolution”, it’s just hard to continue believing. I am most certainly not giving up on the few small things I believe in; like trying to develop the slums or holding on to the few remaining values I consider important, in the midst of this “zoo.” I’m just no longer doing it for the country.

2015 is also the first year I truly understand how alone time will always be a necessity for my survival. It’s the year through which I’ve spent the most quality time with myself, embraced her introversion, and promised to have her on top of my priorities at all times. AUC’s gardens, and AU’s Kogod’s tiny benched “balcony” have had an awesome role in that. *hearts and butterflies*. I have also been practicing how to say no more often, especially when I understood how draining the yes was going to be. And even though I didn’t always know my way around all the no-s, the noticeable increase in their rate is something I’m still proud of.

I also cannot end this without mentioning how grateful I am for being a member of the Zaki family. So much of who I am today, and who I’m still becoming, is because I have the most supportive parents and sisters in the world. My parents have been working behind the scenes all through the year, hardly complaining about how little time I was able to spend with them throughout Glow’s year, and how I still let most of the stress out at home. They have heard all kinds of problems and never belittled any of them, even though I can imagine how childish I sounded most of the time. They have always been implicitly encouraging me to learn, try new experiences and develop myself. Mom has always been praying for me, even without asking her to, and dad has always been there to listen despite how jammed his thoughts already were. And before leaving for my semester abroad, they were always there to offer advice and listen to a spoiled daughter who was freaking out because she realized she’ll have to do her own laundry. I’m pretty sure if I had different parents, they would have hardly been as patient. My two sisters are my God-sent gifts because He knew I wouldn’t have survived this world without their presence. I admit I’ve been taking them for granted all my life, but they were the very first ones who made me realize how much distance really sucks, and how change is inevitable. My semester abroad would have never been the same without them (and the Haggag family of course), with their sole existence helping me catch a few glimpses of the person I have always been struggling to be. Being around them just made things feel right. My 2015 owes a lot to this family.

Lastly, and inspired by Ella Cerón’s post “Year in review, by the numbers”…, which I’m so in love with, I thought my seventy something year old self would want to remember more about what made the most difference in my 2015 through numbers, names, and other lists. So here we go.

Number of imaginary friends I had this year: One, and a half.

Number of months I spent off Facebook: Two.

People I developed so much hate for this year: Two.

Number of pieces written in 2015: Fifty.

Number of books read in 2015: Eight. 😦

Weight gained in 2015: Four kilograms. 😦 😦

Number of trainings prepared and delivered: Three.

Number of presentations given: Five.

Number of awkward moments: Innumerable. I think I’ve made quite a record this year.

Weirdly enough, times I visited the pyramids this year: Two.

Things I started appreciating this year: The existence of الشطافة. Living in a country where I do not have to ask if there’s pork in my food.

Things I realized it’s weird of me to be indifferent about: Food.

Words I realized I’ve been wrongly pronouncing my entire life: Consequences. Gross.

TV shows that made a difference in my 2015: Mr. Robot. HIMYM. تحت السيطرة. طريقي.

Movies that made a difference in my 2015: Inside Out.

Things I have had enough of in 2015: Rain. Hearing my name pronounced as “Bahzma.”

Things I realized I am never getting enough of: Letters. Alone time.

Things I stopped knowing how to enjoy/feel: Hugs.

Person who made me laugh the most this year: Yomna Zaki.

Professors who made a difference in my 2015: Kathleen Saville. Yasmine Motawy. Mohamed Hegazy. Robin Lumsdaine. Bob Lightburn.

Public figures who made a difference in my 2015: Deah, Razan and Yusor. Mohamed Soltan. Omar Samra. Ahmed Gabaly. Baraa’ Ashraf. Shady Barakat. Brandon Stanton. Faried Omarah. Pamela Meyer. Susan Cain. Kareem Esmail. Abdoulrahman Ihab. Ahmed Amin.

Good friends I crossed paths with in 2015 (or a little earlier but still) who made a difference in my year: Nada Nabil. Hany Hawash. Ramy Omar. Rawan Sohdy. Nadine Hosny. Sarah Saber. Ahmed Abdelbaky. Khaled Hanoura. Mohamed Hassan. Aya Dessouky. Sarah Samir. Sherine Hassan. Salma Ashraf. Dunya El-Maghrabi. Mostafa Arafa. Samer Atef. Abdullah El Ghandour. Endang Sabrina. Rini Navarin. Novira Handayani. Syakhilla Widy. Yuyun Ae. Ratna Hatori. Hanan Salah. Rana Abdelnaby. Nada Refai. Reem Fatthelbab. Dina Eissa. Refan Abdel Nabi. Lena Abdelaziz. Mariam Sherif. Hadeer Tarek. Taghreed Ayman. Mennatallah Yahia. Fatema El-Sayed. Asmaa Yucef. Salma Maharem. Nada Baraka. Alia AlQazzaz. Nadeen El Gharieb. Yasmin El Nawawy. Mahmoud Abd Elmageed. Salma Haloda. Heidi Hozayen. Natalie Hani. Shahd Abdulghani. Nathalie Chun. Sohyeong Joo. Loreto Machés. Kyoko Daimon. Sophie Brun. Samantha Edgell. Kendell Lawrenz. Sarah Schoengood. Zinab Attai. Aya Elamroussi. Aman Abdelhamid.

The constants of my life: Rana Kabel. Hanin Aboutaleb. Sohaila Aboutaleb. Yousra El Nemr. Yasmin Ouf. Nada Hafez. Mena Kamal. Eman Haggag. Donia Amer. Summer Nazif. Zeinah Darwish. Raghda Hamza. Manal Seoudy. Ingy El Misiry. Rowan Maher. Hagar Haggag. Hannah Sameh. The people who, no matter how long it has been since we’ve last spoken, always know how to start off exactly from where we left. The people who make it extremely hard for me to complain about “not having someone in my life who understands”, because they always do. The people whose presence makes a difference in my entire life, not just my 2015. My blessings that I’ll never be able to thank Him enough for. Alhamdulillah.

I’m not really a big fan of new year resolutions, because they usually are a reason for me to delay making things right, but let’s just say that for 2016, I’m planning to write more, definitely read more, travel whenever I get the chance to, learn more languages, talk less politics, and spend more time off social networks; maybe even completely deactivate one or two. I am not entirely sure that 2016 will be as eventful, but for some reason, I’m looking forward to it.

Thank you, 2015. I’ll sure miss you.


DC – Day 104

Posted: December 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

Four years into the American system, I’ll have to say that the one thing I’ll never make sense of is, and will always be, the unnecessary emphasis on group projects. I could endlessly write on reasons why I hate them, but that’s not the point. I just got exposed to another side of them this semester that is so worth reflecting on.

So I have this Finance project (that unnecessarily constitutes 45% of the course) which I got to work on with 6 other people. Our last week was the most interesting, because it was when we had to hand everything in. So we decided we should all post our individual work on a common spreadsheet, to come up with collective conclusions and stuff. I waited to see if everyone would actually post their sheets with all their details, because most people at AUC tend to be somewhat secretive about their work, and they wouldn’t normally share their individual portions with their teams just so no one would copy them off. I was wondering whether it’s just who we are, or if it’s a universal thing. A few days later, one of the group members did in fact post her sheet and I just smiled, because yeah, I still tend to compare Egyptian and American attitudes, and I gave credit for American students right then, for not having those kinds of issues. I posted my work too and forgot about it for a while. Then I happened to bump into that girl on campus a few days later, and she surprisingly started complaining about the fact that we’re the only two who did that, and that she was certain they were all just copying our ideas. I instantly took back all the credit.

“I know we’re one group, but I just don’t want to help them!” she said, as I took back even more unearned credit. I realized then that students will always be students, no matter where they are, and I hated that she didn’t openly mention this to our group before, but I just let it go.

A few hours later, I realized she did actually send that out to our group, and I just stopped giving anyone credit since then because I couldn’t even keep track anymore. That was just the beginning of a flow of texts that cracked me up for days. They were absolutely nowhere near funny; they just sounded too honest to be true.

The pictures are only some of what I’ve unexpectedly been receiving. And the best part is, they aren’t all from the same person. Everyone was just speaking their mind. Whenever we were behind, different people would just send out different (rude/honest) texts, and my favorite was when one of them explicitly mentioned that he had done most of the work himself while everyone else’s was apparently trivial. It was just amazing, lol.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but for some reason every group I got to work with for the last three years would happen to be (unequally) divided into people who don’t do anything, and people who do everything while rudely talking among themselves about how the rest are doing nothing. It felt great to finally end up with a group who did everything (yes, the seven of us literally all ended up working on this) and who would confront each other with everything at the same time. Endless credit, and endless sighs.

What’s even funnier (funny here means really sad) was that being that honest didn’t turn us against each other, not even slightly. When we met, we were still the friendly group who would furiously joke about the professor whenever we got together, and complain about how she was ruining our semester. Being too honest didn’t change anything. It just helped us come out with a better end product, and it left me with the funniest texts I’ll probably never receive again.

Too bad it’s almost over!