I'm the first woman in my family to pursue education in a foreign country. My mum played a significant role in making it possible for me to study abroad, and she's my biggest supporter. She gave me the freedom to go out, hang out with friends, and pursue my interests. She never imposed any specific career path on me. Even though I knew it would be challenging, I decided to go for a degree in biomedical science.
The decision to pursue a degree biomedical science stemmed from COVID-19. Everything was shut down, and the world seemed to be on the verge of collapse. I couldn't help but wonder why a tiny virus could wreak havoc on millions of lives while even the greatest scientists struggled to find a solution. All of this inspired me to study biomedical sciences to understand the reasons behind such global health crises.
I struggled a lot during my first month at university. It was a challenging experience. I fell into depression. Going through depression was a huge moment of growth for me. In Saudi Arabia, mental health is not something that is widely recognised or discussed. There are no programmes or discussions about depression, like what you find in other countries where people openly talk about it. It's not that the culture is to blame; it's more about the lack of exposure and awareness around these important issues.
During the first week of university, I found myself going straight to class and coming back without making any friends or engaging with anyone. It was a difficult and lonely time for me. But then, as the second week approached, I decided that even if people don’t seem approachable; I would still push myself to talk to them.
To my surprise, people were much more approachable than I had imagined. I realised that I had been thinking about it all wrong. I pushed myself to attend every social event and engage in various societies. Sometimes, I would be tired after class, but I forced myself to go because I knew I needed a social life to survive in university. Engaging with others, participating in different activities, and talking to people became my lifeline. It helped me break out of my shell and overcome the challenges I was facing. Instead of sitting alone with my problems, I took proactive steps to build connections and support networks.
Another discovery was that I had dyslexia. I remember talking to one of my friends who also had dyslexia. I shared with her the difficulties I faced during exams and such, and she suggested that I might have dyslexia too. At first, I didn't take it seriously and brushed it off as a joke. I thought, "No, that can't be me." But then I realised it wouldn't hurt to get tested and find out for sure.
I reached out to the dyslexia team at my university and they offered to give me a screening which confirmed that I had dyslexia. Having this knowledge allowed me to find alternative ways of studying that suited my way of understanding things. It was a form of self-realisation that opened up new possibilities for me. I'm grateful for the support I received because it was through them that I became aware of my dyslexia and could adapt my learning methods accordingly.
Don’t be ashamed of your differences. Embrace them. Our differences are what make us beautiful. If everyone were the same, with the same gender, face, and capabilities, then no one would be special. Our uniqueness is what sets us apart and should be celebrated.