Studying at Texas A&M University was really challenging, but nothing I was not prepared for. The AUIS engineering program equipped me with the necessary courses not only to continue with a master's program, but also to compete with my peers in the United States and graduate with a 4.0 GPA. I have published two journal papers and working on two more at the moment, for graduate school is all about research. It has been a great two years of learning, and I am grateful for all the help and support I got from my family and friends in Iraq. I am now planning to get further training relevant to my field to advance my career. I am proud to represent Iraqi youth here in the United States, which reiterates that Iraqis are capable of great achievements even under the difficult times that our country is going through. Education is key to success, and I am proud to have graduated from The American University in Iraq, Sulaimani, where all that matters is being a hardworking student; not how rich you are or which part of the country you come from; and my story is a great example of that. I encourage all my Iraqi peers to join AUIS for it is a beacon of knowledge in Iraq which will allow you to learn today to lead tomorrow! Photos provided by Aws al-Nuaimi.
AUIS graduate and Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow, Nawaf Ashur Haskan, draws on his experiences with Kurdish civil society to trace its evolution from the 2003 American-led international coalition intervention of Iraq to the upcoming independence referendum. Reporting on the state of civil society in Iraqi Kurdistan, he offers recommendations for how domestic and international actors can most effectively facilitate positive change, in a discussion with human rights lawyer and former IRIS Fellow Sherizaan Minwalla, at an event organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC. Read more about the event and speakers here.
AUIS alum Nawaf Ashur writes on the role of civil society and free media in Iraq. Ashur, a business studies graduate and class of 2015 valedictorian, is now a research fellow with a Reagan-Fascell Fellowship at the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington D.C. Read his full article here.
Alka and Azheen will follow the path of several alumni who have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in the United States and Europe. AUIS graduates have been admitted to institutions such as the London School of Economics, Missouri State University, Bahcesehir University, the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies(SOAS) and Tufts University. Update July 2017: Alka Aziz has recently returned from Harvard University after completing her masters in Education, while Azheen is currently pursuing masters in International Policy at Johns Hopkins University. Alka is still debating where to pursue her masters in International Education Policy. Her top choices included Harvard University and University of Michigan where she has been accepted. She is passionate about teaching and education policy and hopes to build a career in the field. She is currently working at an events management company in Sulaimani. Azheen, who has been Alka’s friend and classmate since grade 5, enjoys studying international policy and applied to international policy and strategic studies programs. She has been accepted at both Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University. Azheen is also the first president of AUIS chapter of Sigma Iota Rho - the Honor Society for International Studies. Being part of the AUIS community has been a large factor in the personal and academic development, said both students, who have been active in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and internships while studying. They also give a lot of credit to their professors who have encouraged and guided them throughout their time at AUIS and with their applications. Alka, one of the first English graduates of AUIS, specifically thanked Professor Marie Labrosse for her guidance and support. “The English department professors are amazing,” saying that she believes that the English department offers one of the stronger programs at AUIS. She added that it's unfortunate that most students think there are not many career options with an English degree, whereas she received job offers as soon as she graduated and got accepted into the top schools of her choice. She also thanked Professors Loren Higbee and Zac Sitter for their support, and Professor Robert Moore for his guidance with her university application to his alma mater at Harvard. Azheen credits Professor Bilal Wahab’s classes for developing her interest in international policy, and his constant support and encouragement. She also thanked Dr. Tobin Hartnell and Christine van den Toorn, director of Institute of Regional and International Studies, for their support and guidance. The students also mentioned successful AUIS alumni were a source of inspiration for them. They mentioned Dina Meran ‘14 who is currently in the master’s program at The Fletcher School of Law at Tufts University. “She was such an inspiration to us. When she got into the Law School, she gave us the confidence that we could also do it,” said Azheen. “And, we hope that our example will give more confidence to other students that they can also apply and get into any school they want to study at.” Working on applications for top schools can be exhausting, challenging and a little intimidating, admitted both students; however, students should believe in themselves and not be deterred. What advice do they have for other students? Start early Know all the application requirements Be honest Get volunteer and work experience while studying Believe in yourself! “If you have some work experience as a student, it matters a lot as well. I worked for two years at a school - it was only a few hours a day - but it mattered, and it also helps you find out what it is that you really want to do,” said Alka who has both work and volunteer experience of teaching. Azheen is an intern at the International Crisis Group. She worked on a report on the economic situation in Iraq with the ICG and she thinks that really helped her application to the universities. Both agreed that it helps to be clear and honest about why you want to apply to a certain program, “We were very honest about what we want to do and it was very clear from our application what we were passionate about,” said Alka. But most importantly, they say it is really important to believe in yourself and your own capabilities. “Don’t underestimate yourself. A lot of admissions officers and schools are so interested in our region, and our experiences here, being so close to war but being in a safe haven, I think we tend to underestimate ourselves and our intelligence,” they added.