I qualified to be a doctor but instead I have decided to be a journalist. This may seem like a crazy decision to many but I am confident that my experience is similar to the experiences of many young Arabs who have conflicts between their own desires and society’s perceptions of what they should be.
First I would like to share with you my reasons for pursuing medicine, which I studied for six years.
In the country where I was born, Iraq—and probably in most Arab countries—the examination at the end of high school is a foundation for the students’ future profession. It determines which university the student will join and the student’s path to the labor market.
Many people believe that scientific colleges (such as medicine and engineering) are the best. That may be true to some extent because of the lower unemployment among graduates of those disciplines, in addition to the outstanding social respect given to the students of such colleges.
On the other hand, other departments—those focused on the humanities in particular– suffer from poor social recognition as usually students with poor grades join them.
Moreover, most scientific colleges enjoy a sophisticated level of teaching. Colleges specializing in the humanities are still using older curricula, which does not meet the requirements of the labor market. Most of the humanities graduates are unemployed or forced to work in the fields that have no relevance to their studies.
On a personal level, I was aware early on of my real interests, which centered on literature, archeology, history and art. I was fond of reading books since preparatory school and I always dreamed of making exploratory trips or studying archaeology. But, because of the social perception of those fields and my knowledge of the deteriorating education in my country’s colleges I decided to complete my studies in science.
I got high marks in my high school examination without an extraordinary effort as I was a hardworking student since primary school. I was accepted in the faculty of medicine at the Universities of Baghdad and Cairo, but due to the poor security situation in Iraq I decided to go to Egypt.
It was not an easy task to study a discipline you did not like. I thought mostly about leaving university, especially in my third year. However, the encouragement of my family and friends pushed me to complete my studies in a discipline I never wished to join.
My negative feelings didn’t affect my grades on my exams, which surprised my colleagues who knew my problem. In fact, I was hard working whatever the subject was. But to ease my tension, I started to write more as some of my friends advised me. I created a Facebook page for art and classical music and another one for the civilization of Mesopotamia in addition to writing some articles for various websites.
I noticed that there were many students who, like me, did not enjoy their field of study. We were not the majority but we were also not the exception. Some of us felt that we were in the wrong place, others suffered from shock due to the differences between what we thought about our field of study and the reality. But not one of us dared to retreat, especially since many of us and our parents had endured additional financial burdens to attend medical school.
Six years later, I graduated from the faculty of medicine with very good grades. I did not want to continue in this field anymore, but due to pressure from my family I joined the practical training at Kasr Al-Ainy School of Medicine in Cairo University.
After 15 days of working in deteriorating conditions, especially with the lack of security after the revolution of January 25 and with a large number of attacks against doctors, I took my final decision to leave medicine with no return. I decided to start achieving my dream to be a writer and probably eventually an editor for documentaries about history, archeology and culture.
It was not an easy decision. But I felt more comfortable being far from the hospital. I started to study the German, English and Turkish languages and got piano lessons. And as I did not study journalism in university, working with Al-Fanar Media as a freelancer is helping me to develop my writing and reporting skills.
In conclusion, I think success does not come from studying one discipline rather than the other. But it rather comes from doing what we love. Passion is the biggest motivation for success.
We know Arthur Conan Doyle and Aldous Huxley through their distinct books not from being doctors. Charles Darwin presented his theory about evolution and human origins after he left studying medicine and turned to achieve his passion in studying biology. Perhaps such success stories inspired me to make the most important decision in my life. I do believe in the saying sometimes attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”