“What are your plans after graduation?” This always seems to be the first question someone politely asks a university student about to graduate. I never found this a polite question, but when I was asked to write an essay reflecting on that question, I confess, my mind went into overdrive.
Since a young age, I saw myself as destined to become an academic. l would teach younger relatives how to count in English and Arabic and put up a toy whiteboard to give each day’s lesson, taking what I learned at elementary school and implementing it at home. I would even ask them to call me Mrs. Haifaa, as a teacher would be called. But to become an academic in the truest sense of the word, I would need to continue my education beyond a bachelors’ degree.
While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down borders, it has also, paradoxically, opened other doors for students and academics. With websites like Coursera, a platform for online courses developed by two professors at Stanford University, which my university has introduced to students this semester, it has become possible for students across the globe to attend lectures provided by prestigious American institutions like Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, Boston University and New York University. (See a related Al-Fanar Media resource, “A Guide to Top Platforms for Online Courses.”)
While I much prefer face-to-face learning, I do see opportunities that do not require me to travel in order to receive a quality education. That lessens the blow of not being able to move abroad to pursue my passion of writing, as, to my dismay, there are no degrees in the niche program of creative writing as of yet in Saudi Arabia.