Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Things are rarely what they appear to be

Second week of a new semester here at AUIS, and I am (thankfully) teaching Grammar 2 again.

I don't know what they were up to in Grammar 1 last semester, but this new group of students are going to be doing some magical things; I can feel it in my teachery bones!

Spring semester is always a bit lighter in terms of numbers, as fewer new students enroll at this time of year.  Instead of starting with 85 students like last semester, I began with 70.  This is still a lot, but there will always be a few 'no-shows' and of course a few students always drop throughout the semester.

I received an email the other day telling me that a young lady in one of my classes would be taking a leave of absence.  She had been attending every class, participating, and seemed very invested.  I immediately feared that there was some type of personal or family issue that was going to prevent her from continuing.  

Our community at AUIS is so very small and close knit, and most of us (the faculty and staff) are expats with a desire to live and work abroad.  I often forget that I am in a different culture all together, and that what I see on a day to day basis and how I interact with people is not the cultural norm here.

It is still very common for women to get married quite young (by western standards) and to not seek higher education because of family responsibilities.  And while Sulaimani has shown itself to be a safe and inviting place, I have students who are from Kirkuk, Baghdad, and other places close to or in Southern Iraq where the daily threat of violence is still a very, very real thing.

So when one of my students drops out suddenly, I often fear the worst.

I was eating lunch later that same day in the cafeteria, when I saw said student.  She quickly came over to my table and asked to speak with me.

She proceeded to tell what the email had said, that she needed to take a leave of absence.  "I have to go to Indonesia for training..."

Wait. What?

"Yes, I play Karate and my competition is this summer, and I need to train."

"That's amazing!" I said, and she proceeded to pull out her phone and show me a picture.

"Wait, is that a black belt?!" I exclaimed.

"Yes.  I am the first female black belt in all of Iraq."

BOOM! Yeah, my mind was blown too.  I looked at this petite young woman and thought she perfectly embodied 'never judging a book by its cover'.

So, she is off to train and compete and will hopefully be back in the fall to continue her studies in the APP, and then eventually on into the academic program.

I look forward to hearing about her adventures.

"It always seems impossible until it's done"
-Nelson Mandela

1 comment:

  1. How exciting and yes, hard to see that one coming! Good for her and best of luck! (to you both, Rachel!)


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