By Devon Murray, as told by Aisha Aljaedy
Joining AUC one month before the pandemic and subsequent lockdown was extremely challenging but also very rewarding. I applied while I was living in my home country, Yemen, because an Egyptian colleague of mine from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Young Peacebuilders program recommended the University to me in 2019. I knew nothing of life in Egypt, and coming from a public school in Yemen, my English was not great.
Shortly after arriving, I experienced one of the best moments of my life. The University was celebrating its centennial, and I took my visually impaired friend to the festivities. I was describing the scene to her, the fireworks, the people — and I felt utterly present in that moment. I thought to myself proudly, “I am part of the next 100 years of AUC’s history.”
Now that I am here, I believe that my journey is just beginning. Upon leaving home, I held the idea that I was successful, but it turns out I was quite ignorant about a lot of things. Back in Yemen, I was completing my law degree at Hadhramout University and heavily involved in advocacy work in my community, including pushing for the reopening of Al-Rayyan airport after the al-Qaeda capture of Mukalla city ended in 2016. I had also traveled abroad multiple times for various conferences. Despite all of that, nothing prepared me for such a drastic change.
My first semester at AUC was somewhat of a disaster. I found that expectations were much different here in terms of schoolwork and even dress. On top of that, while I was living at the University Residences, nearly everyone left campus when we went fully online right after the semester began. I was alone, stressed and thinking, “Why did the world fall apart before I even had a chance to start?”
But living on campus while it was closed pushed me to find different ways to connect with people and myself. It was during that time that I found a new love of swimming and remotely organized a TEDx event for women back in my hometown of Hadhramout, Yemen. I was also selected as the youngest Board of Trustees member of the Hadhramout Foundation, where I serve alongside four other students. Now that campus has reopened, I am looking forward to getting to know my peers and being active in student organizations.
Overall, I am grateful for the experience because studying at AUC has exposed me to diversity not only in race and language, but also in ideas and culture. It’s here that I’ve learned to listen and engage more thoroughly. With the University’s numerous well-being initiatives, massive library and supportive professors, I have been comfortable enough to discover my true self separate from the problems of my home country — the self that I hope will one day be able to improve the situation back in Yemen.
Aisha Aljaedy is a sophomore and a recipient of the Hadhramout Foundation Scholarship for Yemeni Students. She is also a senior law student at Hadhramout University, where she studies remotely. Aljaedy was selected by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations among the 2019 Young Peacebuilders in the Middle East and North Africa. She is a research coordinator at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies and a volunteer with the World Literacy Foundation. She has published articles on gender and anthropology and previously served as a consultant with the London-based Oxford Research Group as part of their Strategic Peace Project.