A Door Opens, But I Can’t Enter Yet
After receiving my undergraduate degree in May of 2015, I spent months in front of my laptop applying for graduate study toward a master’s degree.
Today, I’m happy to say I have received offers to study journalism at the Universities of Glasgow, Sussex, and Leeds, and at SOAS, the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
These universities have strong programs that contain a broad range of theoretical and practical courses. I believe that they will expose me to several perspectives on the media and law, ethics, democracy, gender and the Middle East—if I can attend one of them.
These days I’m spending most of my time in front of my laptop looking for a scholarship.
I applied for a Chevening scholarship, which provides funds for international students to attend British universities; the Saïd Foundation; and the Higher Education Scholarship Palestine, or HESPAL, to study in the United Kingdom. Three weeks ago, Chevening rejected me. In their email, they said that due to the high volume of applications they received, they couldn’t provide me with individual feedback on why I wasn’t chosen. The Chevening program awarded 1,700 scholarships to scholars from 140 countries in 2016, but the need apparently overwhelms the supply.
I was disappointed. But I have other possibilities.
A week after the Chevening rejection, I received an invitation for an interview with the Saïd Foundation at the British Council in Ramallah, about 42 kilometers from my home in the Arroub camp in North Hebron.
I felt so happy. At least they were interested in my application and wanted to know more about me. On March 11, my journey to Ramallah began. The last time I’d visited the city was about three years ago when I went for my visa and plane ticket to Berlin.
Ramallah is an occupied city, but also a cosmopolitan one. In Ramallah, you can meet people from around the West Bank, including those who remember the 1948 partition that created Israel and Palestine, and even people from Gaza, who mostly come for medical treatment.
During my bus trip, the roads and the settlements illustrated the distinction between a weak state, Palestine, that is trying to survive, and another whose citizens live in luxury, Israel.
Considered illegal by much of the international community, the Israeli settlements in the West Bank have perfect roads, new houses and residents who can come and go as they please. Their settlements also sport surveillance towers, Israeli soldiers, and police standing guard every 100 meters.
On the other hand, how tragic and funny the Palestinian situation has become. We try to create our sovereignty after about 69 years of Israeli occupation, constructing huge buildings and the occasional mall. But then we fill them with international brands like Domino’s Pizza, KFC, Adidas and Mango, not our own businesses.
The only thing that Palestinians and Israelis experience in common is traffic jams.
I arrived at the British Council early. I was waiting for my turn at noon. I was overwhelmed with a storm of thoughts about studying abroad, leaving my homeland and my family for about a year, my dreams, and my career goals in journalism.
There were three interviewers—two British and a Palestinian. Suddenly all my anxiety went away. They asked me several questions about my academic plans, professional experience, volunteer work and leadership skills. I believe I answered their questions and expressed myself well.
They told me that I would be notified at the end of April or the beginning of May. My future now is the hands of the Saïd Foundation. If they reject me, hopefully HESPAL will come through.
My life and the lives of many other young Palestinian lives are dependent on foreign governments and philanthropists. I wish more Arab business leaders would join Wafic Rida Saïd, the Damascus-born businessman who founded the Saïd Foundation, in supporting scholarships, which are common in many countries but extremely scarce compared to the need in the Arab region. At Al-Quds University, I am competing with eight other students for a single HESPAL scholarship.
As for myself, I thought life would become easier after college. But now I’m discovering that my high hopes make life harder, more exhausting. This is life after college. As I get older and climb the ladder of my expectations, life gets harder.
Asma’ Jawabreh is a Palestinian journalist and a teaching fellow at Al-Quds Bard College.