Azza Osman is pursuing a Master of Arts in community psychology under the African Graduate Fellowship at AUC. She was an intern, working as a capacity building coordinator, at Syria Al Gad Relief Foundation, which supports Syrian refugees residing in Egypt. She is also interning with AUC’s John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy, Civic Engagement and Responsible Business. She received her bachelor’s in psychology from Ain Shams University.
This story appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of AUCToday.
I was 7 months old and living in Sudan when my life shifted. My father needed to seek political asylum, so our family moved to Egypt. Because I was so young, I didn’t feel the impact of this move right away, but as I grew up, it was impossible to ignore the challenges of living in a culture different from that of my family. Looking back, I can see how much the process of melding with Egyptian culture, dealing with prejudices and misconceptions, and eventually coming to study at AUC would shape my passions and interests over the course of more than 20 years.
During my 24 years of residence in Cairo, my highest priority and most rewarding challenge has been concentrating on my studies while trying to adapt to Egyptian culture. Over time, these two priorities have come together. What I’ve experienced and noticed about how community and belonging affect us have influenced my desire for change in Sudan, Egypt and Africa.
Being an African migrant and a woman living in Egypt has not always been easy. I face a lot of society’s prejudices, misconceptions and discrimination. My dark skin, for example, invites a lot of judgment. This has made me a more resilient person and has pushed me to reach for more, not just in my own life, but for the lives of vulnerable communities everywhere.
I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and am currently pursuing my master’s in community psychology because I want to use my academic knowledge and personal experience to support migrant and refugee communities in having equal access to opportunities and resources. I want them to be an empowered and developed community. I also want to help them discover and reach their full potential, regardless of the circumstances.
What I find extremely captivating about community psychology is that it goes beyond the individual and integrates social factors to promote positive change on many levels. Because it is based on scientific research, community psychology can offer tailored support to target populations through prevention, intervention and evaluation strategies that lead to their holistic empowerment, sustainability and development. It connects people to their communities and focuses on important issues that I believe Sudan and the African continent as a whole experience, including poverty, discrimination, inequality and lack of quality education.
AUC is one of the top universities in Africa and the Middle East. It is the only University in the region that offers a master’s degree in community psychology. The strength and competitive stature of the University’s program resonate with my desire to be part of an institution that actively changes the world for the better. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the African Graduate Fellowship, one of many opportunities at AUC that encourages students from different backgrounds to follow their dreams and further their education.
My entire experience at AUC has been eye-opening and positively challenging in many ways. Academically, the program has been everything I hoped it would be. The facilities and faculty mentors available in AUC’s Department of Psychology are unparalleled in Egypt. I get the opportunity to apply my studies through practical experiences and internships parallel to my courses — all leading to a hands-on experience that is efficient in developing my skills and knowledge. The principles and mission of the African Graduate Fellowship coincide directly with my aspirations and vision for change in Africa. My hope is that studying at AUC will equip me to provide the best possible services upon my return to Sudan. I am a firm believer in social responsibility. One of my ultimate dreams is to start a community-based organization in Sudan that would support and empower vulnerable groups with no regard to race, color or ethnicity.
I want to offer a safe space for members of a community to get together and receive support, skills and education, while sharing their own gifts, talents and knowledge.
When I look back at the ways being a migrant have shaped me — offering lessons in patience, empathy, resilience and determination — I am proud that I’ve navigated my education to reflect this experience. I am a culmination of communities: the larger community of two countries, that of my parents’ culture and surroundings, and the life I’ve discovered and created for myself here in Egypt. This has made me a strong, open-minded, tolerant and, above all, grateful person. I truly believe that I have been lucky to live and experience all of that and to appreciate things like being part of a connected, loving family. These rich experiences led me to where I am today and will continue to guide me to a place where I can give back.