Minds We Meet – Interviewing Alaa Salih

Alaa Salih is a 17-year-old AU student from Medicine Hat, Alberta. She’s enrolled in a 4-year BA program, working on a double-major in English and Psychology. Recently finished high school, Alaa is in her first year of university studies.

Alaa was visiting Egypt and That’s where The Voice Magazine caught up with her?via e-mail?for this interview.

Has Medicine Hat always been home for you?
No, I was actually born in Cairo, Egypt. At the age of 2, my family moved to the United States, and we lived there for a while. When I entered the 6th grade, we moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta. Out of all the places I’ve been to, I can proudly say that Medicine Hat is my home.

Describe the path that led you to AU. What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the program you’ve signed up for?
I was home schooled from grade 6 until I finished high school. I am used to working on my own, and I am self-motivated. I also travel to Egypt a lot to visit my relatives, especially my grandma. I chose AU because it allows me to continue my education anywhere in the world. I am pursuing an English/psychology degree because I am so fond of literature and I enjoy psychology: it educates me more about human relations, consciousness, unconsciousness, and it helps me understand myself as well.

What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
I like to write poetry and I post my poems online on this website: http://allpoetry.com/Alaa. I love to cook; I try different recipes almost all the time. Sure, sometimes I burn things but, oh well, I learn from my mistakes. I also enjoy spending my time with my friends and family. Furthermore, I volunteer at a nursing home, The Good Samaritan; I find it satisfying to help others out without expecting a reward.

What are your plans for this education once you finish? How does it fit in with where you want to go?
After I am done with my degree, I plan to go into the field of education so I can eventually become a teacher. I would like to teach in elementary schools, as the kids there are easier to handle.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I had an English tutor in grades 6, 7, 8 and 9. Her name is Shalla. Her handwriting was so beautiful, and she could brainstorm ideas so easily. She also strived to write down new words to use in everyday conversations. Mrs. Shalla wrote poems and essays, and she would also help me understand and analyze literature. When I was young, I wanted to be like her: a successful teacher whom everyone would seriously admire.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Well, there is a man whose name is Eric Thomas. He is not a celebrity, but he’s a motivational speaker. I would like to have lunch with him because I would learn something from him. He would give me advice on how to do better in life and how to be successful. Eric Thomas was a high school dropout but he pushed through and finished a PhD and is now earning millions as a motivational speaker. He wakes up at 3 a.m. every day and strives to make his life better for himself and his family. I would like to know more about his life and how he managed to start from nothing and become someone great.

Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like or dislike?
So far I don’t have any problems. I find it easy to study on my own, and I enjoy using the computer to study and submit my assignments. I guess I dislike being in front of a computer screen for long hours, and being dependent on an internet connection is a negative for me. This is because Wi-Fi is not available everywhere and if I were to get a portable USB for Internet it would cost me more.

When was the point where you wavered the most about whether it was worth it to continue your schooling, and what made you decide to keep going?
When I finished high school, which is a couple of months ago, I was tired of studying and the pressure of the high school diplomas was overwhelming. I wanted to give up and take a break for a year. Then when I deeply thought about it, I looked at my life as plain and boring without being in school. Studying keeps me busy and it keeps my brain functioning. Also, postponing my education would eventually get to me?in the future I am sure I would regret it.

What’s your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
This is my first semester with AU, but so far I have to say that Psychology as a Natural Science, PSYC 289, is an interesting course. I love the way the textbook is laid out, including its practice tests and chapter reviews.

Describe the proudest moment in your life.
The proudest moment of my life was after finishing AP (advanced placement) courses in high school. I didn’t think I would be able to finish high school with good grades in AP courses but after a lot of hard work and dedication I was able to successfully complete all my courses.

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I gave up going to Medicine Hat College with my best friends. I also gave up a field that I was interested in: I was going to go into education and become a teacher. Honestly, it was worth it, now I can continue my education anywhere at any time without being overwhelmed with a hectic college life. I already have so much on my plate, therefore AU is the best option for me.

If you were the new president of AU, what would be your first project?
My first project would be to collaborate with universities and colleges all over Canada to provide courses/tutors to students living in cities outside Athabasca. For example, Mount Royal University is providing a 4-yr bachelor of education degree through Medicine Hat College. I think that would provide more tools for students to stay motivated and provide them with easier ways for communication.

Describe your earliest memory.
My earliest memory was when I was 5 years old when we lived in an apartment building in Colorado. I was in the elevator with my older brother and suddenly the elevator stopped and we were stuck in there for a while. I am claustrophobic so I began panicking; I was screaming and crying while my brother was trying to calm me down. Honestly, I remember saying to him “I am dying!” I guess I was overly dramatic, and in the end we were pulled out.

If you were trapped on an island, what 3 things would you bring?
– A survival guide
– A book full of jokes to entertain myself (can’t go crazy on my own)
– A backpack full of canned food, sharp knives, matches, ropes, Band-Aid, compasses?basically a survival backpack.
(I know a lot of people would say cell phone, but really there wouldn’t be any reception and no internet so It’s useless. And you wouldn’t be able to charge your phone.)

Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people.
The one thing that makes me unique is my thinking process and my analytical point of view. I am good at understanding people and relating to them on a personal level. I also try to put myself in people’s shoes, and to give people everything I have to offer because at the end of the day, It’s those little good deeds that matter.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in life is that bad times don’t last. I know it might sound cliché, but I’ve had those days where I thought about giving up because it seemed like life won’t get any better. But really, life does get better, those difficult times pass by, and when I think about it later, I laugh at how pessimistic I was. Nothing lasts forever, therefore I’ve learned to cherish the good times and when I run into adversity I remind myself that It’s only a bad day, not a bad life.

What do you think about e-texts or the plans to make the university follow a call-centre model?
I think e-texts are useful, but at the same time, some documents take awhile to load. In my opinion, if the university follows a call-centre model, that will be more helpful as it will provide students with faster and more efficient way of communication.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?
I communicate with my course tutors through email; I find it better because when they reply to my questions, I can go back and re-read their instructions.

Where have you travelled so far?
So far, I’ve been to Cairo, Egypt for family reasons. I’ve been to the United States of America; I spent 8 years moving with my family from state to state. I’ve been to New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio, west Virginia and Washington. Finally, my family settled in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, and I am thankful we aren’t moving away anytime soon.

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
I am currently reading “The fault in our Stars,” by John Green. I watched the movie, but hadn’t read the book. Most people insist that the book is better so I thought I’d read it to see what the hype is about.