student blog

Life After AUIS

Blog by Mahdi Murad, business administration, '14  Amsterdam, December 2016: Recently, one of my best and dearest friends who also happens to be an AUIS alum, visited me in Amsterdam. It was a short visit, but a big part of our conversation was about all the experiences we shared during our times at AUIS. The student government, student clubs, blogs, demonstrations and many more were some of the memories we recalled. It was an inspiring meeting looking at where we both stand now. I kept thinking about AUIS even after my friend left. I have always valued my experiences at AUIS and have always been thankful for what the university has offered me. The words, “Without AUIS, I would not be able to stand where I am now,” started almost all my conversations with my friends. AUIS was definitely the one and only place that offered me a number of opportunities that would have been too difficult to get elsewhere in the country during my college life. So I, once again, thank AUIS, its professors, staff members, and students who have been, and continue to be, a great source of inspiration to me.  While browsing through the AUIS website, I came across these words from my previous blog, “I not only majored in business administration, but I also became a journalist, a playwright, and a sports lover through the various extracurricular activities that AUIS offers its students,” and, “I believe that the extra knowledge and confidence that I gained, along with my degree, have been really helpful to me in getting hired by one of the most well-known international companies around the world!” That was what I said about two and a half years ago. Have I changed my mind now? The answer is absolutely not! I analyzed every word I stated during the last years after I graduated at AUIS. Indeed, each word reflects what I have achieved so far. I have many friends, a majority of them AUIS students and graduates, who ask me how I got to where I am now. The answer is not impossible nor is complicated: harness every single moment of your life at AUIS and make use of all the opportunities you can get. For someone from outside AUIS in our country, the words “extracurricular activities,” and “extra knowledge” might not mean much, however, if you ask the same question to an AUIS member, it could mean everything. It could mean the basketball team, the soccer team, journalism club, debate club, drama club, writing club, reading club, or a variety of other activities; things like study abroad exchange programs and internships. So, this helps you see how different AUIS is. And my advice to the current students is to be as proactive as possible; do not only look at the opportunities, go after each one of them. I was personally one of those students who was engaged in as many of these activities as possible. Did they help me? Absolutely! In addition, I totally understand that AUIS requires a lot of time and dedication for its curriculum, classes, and exams. However, successful students will be able to manage their time in a way that could dedicate some of their focus to all the wonderful opportunities AUIS offers in addition to its prestigious system of education. Furthermore, I would like to leave you with few points that I learnt from my professors, friends, and everyone I work with. These are points that helped me achieve many of my goals. Firstly, work on creating a rich resume that should be populated with experiences related to your dream career. Having a strong major such as business administration was good but never enough to help me get the job. It was mostly about the related skills I managed to develop while I was a student. My bachelor’s degree helped me become one of the top candidates for the job, but the extracurricular activities such as journalism, theater, internships and volunteer work were the reason I was chosen for the job. So, know what you would like or want to do now before you graduate. And always work around the expected skills you will need to get that career after you graduate. Secondly, do more of what you think you are good at, and don’t change your mind for something that you are not sure you will succeed at. When I graduated from high school, almost everyone who knew me was surprised that I didn’t go to engineering or medical school. I was honest with myself at that time. I knew these two were not for me, and I would not be happy or successful at them. I loved English at that time, and always wanted to speak English fluently. Therefore, I decided to join AUIS and chased that dream until I achieved my goal. Within AUIS, after the English program, I realized I would enjoy business. So, I soon decided to chase that dream too. In a nutshell, you need to find your dream job and passion and chase it. Ask for advice as much as possible but be honest about what you are good at and what you want to do in the future. The third and very important thing is TIME. My life at AUIS seemed crazy for many of my colleagues. I was engaged in several extra-curricular activities simultaneously. Many of my friends thought that I had no life, but only my very close friends could understand I was busy but also super happy. I was able to manage my time and balance my life very well. It is also crucial to know that the time management skill will live with you for the rest of your life. For example, after you graduate and are hired for your dream job, you need to balance your work and life effectively. Every day I hear the words “balancing life and time management” wherever I am. Based on my experience, you need to develop that skill as soon as possible and not wait until after graduation. I have some friends and colleagues who are facing big challenges with their work due to lack of life-work balancing and time-management skills. So, develop that skill now and the future will be much easier for whatever job you take. Lastly, like Leonardo DiCaprio once said, “When you wake up in the morning, you have two choices…go back to sleep and dream your dreams or wake up and chase those dreams.” I hope you wake up and go after your dreams. I wish every AUIS student a great future and would like to again remind you that AUIS Makes Impossible, Possible!

My Room - Nali

My Room[1] Like a cage, this room traps me inside, Like the spiders’ warp and weft. Tassels of smoke line the roof, threadbare as old swaddling clothes. The roof and walls fall apart like a rickety cradle. In the roof, post by post, you can count the rafters like The visible ribs of a workhorse, alive in name only. Rather than strong mud, they shower fine leaves on the roof. Like autumn rain the leaves fall, one by one, into the room. Even now, in this room, the chill feels chilly It’s not a room. Call it a chill with four walls. When the sky clouds, we cry, Oh, God, what do we do in these abandoned ruins? Summer days, sunlight fills every pinch of space, There’s not half a pinch of shadow inside. Summer is hell and winter is hell frozen over. Hell’s ice and spitfire don’t have such effect. The great brightness catapults such spitfire that Chameleons, sun-worshippers, gather in my room. The shutters are fragile as a spider’s web except They catch nothing, not even swarming mosquitoes. On days of hail, raining glass breaks heads and hearts. On days of rain, water leeches at the room, threadbare and unkempt. In snow and wind, get a sleigh. In rain, get a barge. Get a paddle or at least a broken basin to bail. Use the bowl to throw the flour out. Use the paddle in case you get washed out. If this isn’t a mill, why all the flour? If this isn’t a barge, why does it float? Bowl and spoon, mat and rug, they surge with the tides Like turtle and fish and octopus. Days, our air is rippling water: rivers and streams. Nights, the racket of crabs and frogs keep us awake. The water weasels in and takes things away with it. I cry out, robbed, robbed. The room had been bred. Pregnant and due in spring, But autumn brought an early birth, premature. Its belly swelled to the floor, but truth was The seed was only water, the stillbirth brought on by lightning. The sky stones us with hail. Our novices run around, cut, ripped up, ass-torn. They run to the surgeon’s, the doctor’s With their hems rolled up, their heads split open. The kind roof repairman allowed us all to learn: If a man drowns, he will float, not sink. You didn’t resurface the roof, So, don’t kick the room, for God’s sake, let it weep.   [1] Room: this “room” is specifically in a tekiye or khanaka, given to someone studying and/or advanced in their studies.  Translation of Nali's poem حوجرەکەم , by a group of students working on translating classical Kurdish poetry into English. Read more about their work here.   

A Trip to Translate Poetry

  Student blog by Shene Mohammed who visited former AUIS professor Marie Labrosse in Virginia, USA, on a project to translate classical Kurdish poetry into English.  We started our poetry-reading event with a big pot of Kurdish tea that was served in little Kurdish teacups and served to our audience in Virginia (United States) where we were all guests of Marie LaBrosse, a former professor at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) and a current PhD candidate at The University of Exeter. The cups were emptying up and getting refilled at a rapid pace. This was the first time we were publicly presenting the translations that we have been working so hard on for the past year. The night before the event, we practiced how to recite poetry while Marie was cooking dinner. She was telling us how the emphasis on one word alone can change the meaning of the verse, and how our decision about what to emphasize needs to be clear for the audience. Sitting down on a rug, with books of the poets we translated beside us, we felt close to our audience. Every time we read a poem, questions were asked and discussions started about poems, meaning, literature, and culture. We realized that Kurdish poetry was open to many different interpretations just like other works of world literature, but our audience felt the world was deprived of it, and that they were missing out on Kurdish literature. This amazing visit to America, and reading Kurdish poetry in such an event, was made possible for us because of  Marie. The first time I saw Marie was in a workshop about 'heroines' at AUIS. The discussions were about our own heroines and what characteristics set them apart to make them heroines to us. While talking about the distinction between “unique” and “different”, I got to know a unique woman, Marie, whom I have learned tremendous things from. We later talked about the beautiful work she does with translating classical poetry, and I knew I wanted to work with her on translations. I joined fellow students Mohammed Fatih and Srusht Barzan to form our first team of translators. We selected the poems we wanted to translate; we then made our own catalogs, and started literal translations of the poems. We enjoyed reading poetry together, and talking about all the possible meanings; we also laughed together about some of the mistakes we made, especially after checking each other’s work. What made the project a great experience for us was that we started out with one poet and then decided to expand and do more. This gave us a chance to study more of the great masters in classical poetry.   We first started translating Sheikh Raza Talabni’s poems, and translated a great part of the Kurdish catalog of his divan. Sheikh Raza was our poet. We wanted to get to know him more, so we decided to go to Kirkuk where he lived with his family in their main takya*. The Talabani Takya to this day is the greatest takya in Iraqi Kurdistan, and has branches all around Kurdistan. We were very interested to know how in this holy place, and amongst such a religious family, a poet known for his insolence came to be. How was he able to curse anyone he did not agree with or liked, and yet live and be part of a family that spiritually guided people? How did others view this man in such a family? To answer these questions we made trips to Kirkuk to see the takya, Talabani family, those scholars who have been studying his work, and Raza’s old house. One of the scholars who helped us significantly in Kirkuk was Amin Shwan, who has been studying Raza’s work for 20 years. With him, we talked about stories behind Raza’s poems, his choice of words and his unique language of cursing people without using any bad words, praising people with using curse words, or writing Sufi poems to God. The different parts of his character raised a lot of questions for us, and every time we visited Kirkuk, there was more to learn about. Amongst the members of the Talabani family that we talked to, was Sheikh Pirot, who runs the family house; Sheikh Nuri, who supervises a team that studies Raza; and Sheikh Usif, who runs the takya.   Another question that crossed Marie’s mind while we were translating Sheikh Raza’s work, was the literature during Raza’s time: whom did he look up to as a poet, and with whom he corresponded? We then started to read the poets who wrote in the 1800s. From each poet we chose 10 to 15 poems to translate. This was to explore language and poetry in the 1800s. When we started this and as the work was adding up, Lana Khalid, a graduate of AUIS, and Savan Ako, a student in Slemani University, joined us. We chose to translate Nali, Salm, Kurdi, Mahwi, Bekhod, Hamdi, Wafa’I, Jamil Zahawi, and Piramerd. When we added all these poets, we realized the amount of work we have put on our shoulders, that we needed to finish in a short time. This summer, for full time translation of these poets, Marie hosted Savan and I in her house in Virginia, in the beautiful small town of Crozet. We spent three weeks translating these poems in Marie’s library among her books. The house was full of books, records, and musical instruments of Marie and her husband, Sam, who is a professional singer and songwriter. We also watched sunsets from their living room, ate delicious dinners, listened to Marie and Sam’s favorite songs and exchanged our favorites, which we called 'The Game of Hits'. We enjoyed getting to know their friends, seeing this whole other part of the world, learning about American culture, and seeing Virginia’s beautiful old handmade things. Despite the hard work of getting all the poems done in such a short time, we enjoyed every bit of it. Reading the masterpieces on a clear early morning, on Marie’s porch that faces her colorful garden, while drinking Kurdish tea made the trip feel more like a vacation rather than a working trip.  *Takya is an Islamic shrine in which religious ceremonies are performed and food is offered for free. Usually, it is built upon graves of Sufi figures and it includes mosques and lodges for Ziyaret, religious pilgrimages. It is supervised by a Sheikh and his wife, and inside this place Murids, disciples, seek spiritual purification. "My Room" - Read one of the students' translations of a poem by Nali  

Engineering Club Field Trip

  By Zanwer Hasan AUIS Engineering Club The newly founded Engineering Club at AUIS is working hard to get future engineering students familiar with engineering in a practical way. Construction site visits for all departments of engineering provide a great opportunity for students to see the real life and work of engineers. For instance, students get a taste of what the construction industry has in store for them after graduation. Such visits are also beneficial for them theoretically because it builds a bridge between what the students learn in class and what they see on sites. On March 6 and 7, 2016, two groups of students along with Ms. Raguez Taha, faculty member and advisor of the Engineering Club, went to the construction site of Magma Square Mall, located next to AUIS. Malia Group, which is constructing the Magma Square Mall, gave students the opportunity to visit the construction site. Mr. Anuar, Site Manager, offered his time and gave a tour around the sit, explaining the different components and processes of the site. This field trip to the Magma Mall construction was a good experience that improved our knowledge in the area of construction engineering. The engineering club would like to thank all the members of Magma Square Mall construction site, a special thanks to Mr. Anuar for providing his time and this valuable opportunity to the students.  Photos: Engineering Club

I Cannot Unsee the Problems

  My name is Zhiwar Jawhar (Zhiwar Nazanin) and I am an undergraduate student in the IT degree program. This fall semester, I was a student in Dr. Choman's ART 102 class, which explores gender issues in society with a particular focus on the media. I decided to create a short video as my final project for this class. My video project, Daykm Pashnawma, is supervised by Dr. Choman Hardi (Choman Saadia), the chair of the English Department and founding director of the Center for Gender and Development Studies. The main aim of the video is to question patriarchal society and men’s sense of ownership in society by focusing on family names; the subjects in the video state their mothers’ names as their last names and restate some sexist idioms to make them non-sexist. Sexist language excludes a gender when discussing a topic that applies to both sexes and shows gender bias. Language has an important role in shaping the society, and it is a reflection of the society that reinforces stereotypes. In the Kurdish language, inequality has an obvious appearance in portraying gender imbalance. Unfortunately, people see it as a normal thing - they do not see it as a problem or a big deal. In a patriarchal society, everything is dominated by men and they claim ownership. I can no longer subscribe to such a system. In a family, for example, the man has ownership of the children who take his last name. It is through this point which I question male ownership. The name of men appear throughout our history and lives while the name of women fade away. I can recall more than ten of my male ancestors, but, unfortunately, I do not know the names of my great grandmothers. While reading a book about my family’s tribe from cover to cover, about 200 pages, I never came across the name of a woman. During the recording of the video, I asked one of the subjects to say his grandmother's name after his mother's name. He stayed silent for a moment and then said, "I cannot remember. Look at what they have done to our mind." Patriarchy is practiced through language everyday and the language has come to be dominated by men. Additionally, the other problem that I worked on is restating some sexist idioms to make them non sexist. For example, I tried to change, "My dad is my hero," to, "my parents are my heroes." For my video project, I interviewed six well-known men to appear in my video project and speak about the role of their mothers in their lives. I asked them to state their mother’s last name and to restate a sexist idiom to make it non sexist. I interviewed Aram Ali (Aram Fatm) and Shwan Attoof (Shwan Suhaiba) in Aram Gallery. Aram Ali is the owner of Gallery Aram and is a respected Kurdish artist; Shwan Atooff is an actor and director and has participated in many international film festivals. I also invited Kurdish authors and translators, Mariwan Halabjayi (Mariwan Garda), Peshraw Hussain (Peshraw Bafraw), Yassen Omer (Yassen Pur Aftaw), Hossein Hossaini ( Hossein Rabi) to visit the campus for my project. They brought along with them several of their works to donate to the AUIS library’s Kurdish and Persian collection.  Mariwan Halabjayi translates from Persian to Kurdish and from Kurdish to Persian. He has translated many important Kurdish novels into the Persian language; among them are Dwahamin Hanari Dunia by Bakhtyar Ali and Hasar u Sagakani Bawkm by Sherzad Hassan, thus making Kurdish literature available to an Iranian audience. Hossien Hossieni (Hosseien Rabi), who is a lecturer at the University of Sulaimani and a writer, is also a translator, from English to Kurdish. He has translated many significant scientific books, the Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow is among them. Peshraw Hossen (Peshraw Bafraw), who is teacher at Sulaimani Institute of Fine Arts and an actor and director, translates from Persian to Kurdish. He has translated many important pieces of literature, such as the memoirs of Albert Camus and the Complete works of Constantin Stanislavski. Yassen Omer (Yassen Pur Aftaw) is a writer, translator, and a TV presenter. He has written and translated many important works; Tyanusy Pashay Hich is one of his most important works, which is a collection of his poems.  My video project will be published soon on YouTube, Sulyon Web, and AUIS official Facebook page. I would like to express my gratitude to all the writers who visited AUIS and donated their books to the library, and to all the above for agreeing to be part of my project. I am also grateful to Soran Naqishbandi (Soran Suuad) for helping me with the camera and editing and Komeley 68 that was there at the beginning of the project. Many thanks to Dr. Choman Hardi, who has taught me many things; the most important is learning to see the hidden injustices. Also, I have learned that the first step in overcoming any conflict is understanding it; that raising awareness does not only give us knowledge, but it also leads us to take action; that once you see a problem, you cannot unsee it. Although I am an IT major, I have come to learn much about my society and this is one of the benefits of studying in a liberal arts program. Love & Peace, Zhiwar Jawhar (Zhiwar Nazanin)     If you are an AUIS student interested in writing blogs about your experiences at the University, please send us an email at communications@auis.edu.krd. 

An Instructive Visit to Washington D.C.

This summer, I had the chance to go on a 50-day study visit to Washington D.C., USA. I was nominated by the The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) program and Charles University in Prague to attend the TFAS program in Washington D.C., representing the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The mission of TFAS is to change the world by developing leaders for a free society. TFAS offers transformational programs that teach the principles of limited government, free-market economics and honorable leadership to students and young professionals in America and around the world. TFAS programs hope to inspire these future leaders to make a difference in their communities and throughout the world by upholding the values essential to the preservation and success of a free society. The program I attended -  Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA) - is intended for students planning to pursue careers in foreign affairs, economics or international development. Academic study is focused on current foreign policy issues, political trends and free-market economics. My purpose in attending the program was not only for its academic benefits, which I greatly gained from, but also for what it was offering outside the classroom: a wide range of practical career trainings, networking opportunities and interesting events. For example, I had the chance to work on policy analyses with some of the world's most prestigious think tanks and policy development consultancies. I also took part in analyzing effective initiatives that affect the world in different ways for the purpose of studying means of civic and economic developments and how they could be applied in the Kurdistan region. The program offered numerous study visits and workshops at key government entities based in Washington D.C. They included visits to several embassies, the U.S. Department of State, The Congress, Capitol Hill, World Bank, United Nations, FBI and CIA, the Department Of Foreign Relations, and the Department of Defense. The listed locations are some of the key institutions that we had the chance to visit, and which helped me gain a better understanding of how different entities work to carry out their missions. The highlight of my study visit was my 50-day internship with a policy advising firm called Global Policy Advisors (GPA). GPA is a full spectrum political consulting and research firm based in Washington, D.C. Their mission is to provide clients with the highest standard of services in the fields of government affairs, media relations, strategic relations, and political advisory. During my time there I had the chance to work on a detailed research about U.S. Foreign Policy in the KRG as well as the role of the U.S. in the war against ISIS with regards to their cooperation with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The research was published in Washington Wire which is a private source of news, for the Congress only. I received great feedback from a number of congressmen and the department of foreign affairs for providing insight about the ongoing events and developments of the KRG and peshmerga. I spent my days working from 8 to 5 or even more, rarely in the office and mainly attending debates and hearings about the KRG by think tanks or the Congress. I even had the opportunity to attend hearings on the topic inside the White House. Among other highlights of my internship was the opportunity to meet and interview key policy makers, including John McCain, Rand Paul, Chris Murphy among other congressmen and heads of think tanks. What I achieved during my research and study visit to the U.S. cannot simply be put in a few sentences. The experience for me was eye-opening in terms of the path of my future career. I specifically chose Washington D.C. as it is one of the world's key center-points for policy making, affecting the whole world and specifically the Middle East and the KRG. I have come to firmly believe that one of the main foreign policy goals of the KRG ought to be making our voice heard in Washington. While attending debates and platforms aiming to develop policies affecting the KRG I realized that there is a great gap of positive policy developments mainly due to lack of inlfuence or perhaps scattered voice of the Kurds to advocate for the Kurdish cause. In the future, I would like to work with different universities and research centers to create more opportunities for youth working in the field of policy analysis, research and effective policy making. I would also like to contribute in any way possible to explore opportunities for locals to work with institutes in Washington so we can ultimately enhance Kurdish influence on KRG related policies developed in the United States. If you are an AUIS student interested in writing blogs about your experiences at the University, please send us an email at communications@auis.edu.krd.   

AUIS Students Spend Summer in U.S.

  Tebeen Muhamad Raoof I learned yesterday and I have applied what AUIS offered me. The Study of the U.S. Institutes for Students (SUSI) is a five week program in the U.S. to understand the culture, education and politics of the country. Despite facing some challenges during the program, it was an experience of a lifetime for me. The program couldn’t be more diverse, with 23 participants from Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Iraq; and 8 students from Miami University, who were from the U.S. and China. Not only did I learn a great deal about the United States but also about the Arab world. The theme of my program was Civic Engagement, with a focus on American politics, education and culture. I was so proud to be the only student to represent Kurdistan and AUIS.  I started my journey in Oxford, Ohio, with a country presentation followed by intensive academic sessions about the American constitution, cultural diversity, sustained dialogue, moderator training, civic skills, how to be active citizens in the community, and many other interesting topics. The program got even more energetic and fun when we started visiting museums, governmental places, NGOs, and community organizations to foster our understanding about the reality of the country. Being able to participate in the naturalization ceremony and seeing the American dreams come true for the new citizens were a few highlights of the visit to Chicago. We ended the program by spending a few days in Washington D.C. for some sightseeing around the city.  I learned during the program to give back to my community and be a good, responsive citizen and student. All the hard work at AUIS finally paid off during this program.The ability to understand the language well, to be responsible, punctual, and responsive - values that we developed at AUIS - helped me feel at home and made my time spent in the States more valuable. Hastiar Sheikhani - a Mechanical Engineering student - spent five weeks on a SUSI program hosted by the Temple University and Dialogue Institute. The program was focussed on Religious Pluralism and Democracy in the United States. Hastiar spent most of the time at Temple University in Philadelphia, but also visited Washington D.C., Georgia, and North and South Carolina. After returning from the program, Hastiar has set up the Dialogue Club at AUIS to initiate and facilitate dialogue between diverse communities within Iraq and around the Middle East. His blog about his experience in the exchange program will be posted soon. Rawan Barzan attended the SUSI program for women's leadership - a five week exchange program for people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Participants go through an intensive program in which they take classes concerning women's rights and accomplishments in the United States. She had the opportunity to meet successful women in high positions and was exposed to the diverse culture of the United States. It can be a very valuable and eye-opening experience for anyone who is interested in women's leadership, democracy and cultural exchange. Heeran S. Ali was selected to attend the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) - a six week exchange program for students from the MENA region. It targets the individual growth of potential leaders to create positive change in their communities. This experience allowed participants to establish a solid understanding of diverse communities, showing them a model of societal growth. Participants from various backgrounds help in the process of personal growth while harnessing a setting for mutual understanding and regional solidarity. If you are an AUIS student interested in writing blogs about your experiences at the University, please send us an email at communications@auis.edu.krd. 

AUIS Helped Me to Become A Better Leader

Mohamed Sabir
The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) has had a great impact on my life. In Iraq, we have always struggled for better leaders, but in terms of followers we have had more than enough. AUIS is here to create a new future for Iraq with leaders who believe in freedom, justice, and democracy. Before joining AUIS, I found difficulty in developing my goals, and I went through a period in my life in which I questioned everything.  I had trouble finding meaning in my life and questioned the value of education. This as I enrolled in university to study architectural engineering.  After attending classes for a couple of months, I decided to leave to attend AUIS. Everyone around me thought I was crazy for leaving a “prestigious college” to become a student at AUIS.  For me, however, it offered a life with purpose. Engineering to me was money, position, name and fame, but I did not find any meaning in those things, so, I began my journey to find meaning in life.  At AUIS, I began taking classes in the Academic Preparatory Program (APP). My English vocabulary was terrible, but, I quickly found my way and after several weeks of hard work, one of my teachers offered me a chance to move into a higher level because of my hard work. This quick success happened because I had good teachers and I spoke in English almost all the time. My undergraduate studies were a period of exploration in my life. In addition to studying the arts, history, and math, I became involved in student activities, I became a research assistant for several professors at AUIS, and also took on several internships. I was honored to be elected the International Studies senator and vice president of the first Student Association in 2013. I am now the president of the Student Association, which has done some remarkable work, but we face the same struggles as any new institution. I have benefited a lot from what I have been taught at AUIS, especially my class about politics and government, which taught me how to work with different ethnic groups and with people with different interests, something we face every day in the Student Association. I also joined a group friends and established a newspaper that has no ideology, but brings different perspectives to the reader. Primarily because of these two contributions, this summer I was given the chance to participate in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP).  IYLEP opened my eyes and it also made me more open-minded.  Before I was reading about political rights and freedom, but IYLEP gave me a chance to travel to the United States and experience first-hand these political rights and civil liberties. What I discovered was that leadership does not mean ruling people or people serving you, but rather it means as a leader, you serve the people you are leading.  As I developed new skills, I realized that I was actually taught the meaning of leadership by my father, who has always been a role model to me. And, I also realized that good leadership does not exist without love, and this I was taught by my loving mother. All of this, however, could not have turned me into a leader without AUIS. AUIS is what gave me purpose, along with the education and the opportunity to serve my community.  From here, the journey of my life continues as I continue to add more meaning to my life and to others. Mine is an unfinished story -for now. I do not want to do things for money or fame, but I want to do them so that I share what I was taught at AUIS: to be a leader who brings freedom, justice and democracy to our society.    

AUIS Graduate Leans In

Banu Ali at Lean In circle meeting
I was at the National Model United Nations conference in New York last year when I heard that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, wrote a book called “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” I went to a bookstore immediately to buy it. Initially, I feared that her book wouldn’t help me because I am from a different world. However, I realized after reading it that I have been through many similar situations. For example, like Sheryl, know what it feels like to be the only woman in the office. I also know what it is like to be labeled "bossy" when I try to lead. After reading “Lean In,” I became a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg. I admired how successful and hard working she is. A few months later, I started working at a non-profit organization, the Hiwa Foundation. One of the major projects at the Hiwa Foundation is translating books into Kurdish. After few months working there, I suggested we translate "Lean In." They loved the idea once they learned how powerful the book’s message is. With the support of the Hiwa Foundation and the Lean In Foundation, we got approval to translate the book. Distributing “Lean In” in Kurdish will help the local region to cast off the idea that women must be at home raising children while men work. With collaboration and looking at your wife or husband as a dedicated co-parent, we can build better families and societies. We can have more women sit at the table, as well as more women going back to school or to work with encouragement from their families and society.  My hope is to see more women as leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians and business owners. In addition to translating “Lean In” into Kurdish, the Lean In Foundation is supporting my efforts to start a Lean In circle at AUIS. What is a Lean In circle? It is a group of eight to twelve peers who meet monthly to explore professional topics and exchange personal experiences in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust.  Circles can be for both men and women. I believe AUIS can benefit from Lean In circles, which cover topics such as: how to know your strengths, how to communicate with confidence, how to negotiate, how to allow yourself to be brilliant.  I loaned my copy of “Lean In” to a few of my friends, and I was pleased to hear that they, too, were inspired by Sheryl’s ideas. Azheen Ihsan Fuad, an international studies major at AUIS, said, “when I first heard about 'Lean In,' I didn't think that it was going to be relevant to me because it was coming from a woman within the corporate world. I was, however, wrong in every possible way.Reading through the pages of ‘Lean In,’ especially when Sheryl wrote about of how she would always worry that she got a low grade on her exams and how her brother would think the opposite. In the end, they'd both get high grades. This wasn’t because her brother was being over-confident, but because of the low confidence she had. That was something that stayed with me, because when it comes down to expressing my opinions or 'keeping my hands up' within discussions duringclass, I always felt like my ideas were wrong. Or I would sometimes whisper the answers/opinions to myself. Yet at the same exact time, another person would word out exactly what I was thinking, leaving me more down than before. As an international relations student, it's important for us to express our opinions and keep our hands up, and what Sheryl was saying in her book, was the right push for me to actually keep my hands up and make sure what I was thinking was heard.” I encourage students to read the book and come join the circles. We are doing this to encourage you to lead. We hope to see as many men as possible in the circles, too. 

How I Wrote the AUIS School Song

To write a piece worthy of our great University was not an easy task. As I began to think about the lyrics, I thought about my years on campus. AUIS has pushed, encouraged, and celebrated all my moments. My peers, the faculty, and the staff changed my view of the world and provided me with a toolkit that I will make use of for the rest of my life. I met incredible people, felt challenged in classroom and spent hours laughing with my friends in the cafeteria. As I was reflecting on my experiences, I realized that many other AUIS students share positive feelings towards the university and thus I decided to convey them through lyrics.  The final product illustrates the feelings of many students and alumni. AUIS students are intelligent, unique, and forward thinking; they want to help brighten the future of our country and be strong role models for future generations. I wanted to convey these feelings in a song so that anyone that sings or reads the lyrics of our school song can understand the strength, passion and drive of AUIS students. In addition to finding inspiration in my memories while developing the lyrics, I used my musical roots to develop the final product. I come from a family with a lot of passion for the arts, especially the world of music. As a student in the arts program in Sweden, I learned early on the power of music and have always been interested in spreading this gift. My main motivation and supporter has been my wonderful father who has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and live a life full of passion. I definitely get my musical abilities from his side of the family; I grew up listening to him sing and play various instruments at home. By writing the lyrics my aim was to provide AUIS with a song that could further unify our student body and also allow me to share the power of music with the community. Thank you AUIS for many great years and wonderful memories. Also, thank you to the jury for selecting my lyrics and providing me with the honor of developing the AUIS school song lyrics.

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