When I first finished high school, I never thought I would be doing what I am today. It has been a long journey since then, almost 10 years. My teenage dream was to go to Italy and study interior design there but alas, fate demanded otherwise. While I was waiting for the Tawjihi score to be announced, I was in the midst of filling university applications from which Birzeit University and Al Quds University. When it was time to determine what to study with the actual score I got, the options were not many. The dream of going to Italy vaporized and the harsh reality hit me. I could only study English Literature or Biology in Birzeit, two things I wasn’t quit enthusiastic about. So I sought the other major university in proximity under the pressure of my parents, namely Al Quds University. Back then the matriculation forms were hard copy and you had to fill them by hand, being my first time ever in al Quds University, I started flipping through the Brochure that I was given at the registration office. It had all faculties named with each department inside of it. There were many choices that got me excited since I could study here something interesting. The first thing I looked at was the faculty of science, since science in general was one of my favorite subjects, here was also the ordinary, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math departments but there was an addition, a deferent bachelor’s that I haven’t seen in any Palestinian university before. It was the faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences, something suddenly shined in my eyes and since then I knew it was the path for me to take. Starting from the first semester, every course seemed wonderful and interesting; this subject had all the things I liked in addition to a good amount of field work and lab-work. It was fun and active, and I never regretted taking this path. This was reflected in my academic career where I had one of the highest scores of the department when I graduated.
After graduation the summer came by and it was very hard to find employment with the bad economical situation of the country and my lack of experience as a fresh graduate. However, as they say, ‘if a door closes another opens’. There was this position as a Master student offered by my professor at Al Quds University on a private project funded by the German Ministry of Education, a welcomed opportunity at that moment. Thus past the summer, I enrolled as a Master student on the new first semester in the Environmental Studies program at Al Quds University, once again fate had brought me back to this university. I have to say that those two years taught me a lot, as much as all my previous bachelor’s years I may say. Using everything I learned, we (me and another Master student) started to ready our study area for data collection. It was a far area, in the south of the West Bank, deserted in some places. We had to experience new things and work with new people like Bedouin population over there. It taught me a lot as a young scientist and as a human. After the thesis defense of my Master that focused mostly on Hydrogeology, another opportunity arose, one for a PhD in Germany. It was a tough decision to make since I hadn’t thought of pursuing higher degrees of education before. But again, the harsh reality of lack of job opportunities especially for fresh graduates presented itself and by that made my decision easier to pursue a PhD.
The PhD scholarship was in Germany, a country I wasn’t familiar with or with its language. Living alone for the first time in a foreign country had its hurdles and big ones I might add, but it also taught me a lot in terms of depending on myself and facing adversities with a stable heart. Adversities like; breaking a leg within the first few month of my stay, and facing its operations alone, or struggling to find a home when you don’t speak the native language. Until today I am still doing my PhD in hope that after 10 years of university study and at the age of 28 I will hold my degree proud in my hand. But sometimes I think, what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to Al Quds University that day and got introduced the world of Environmental Sciences. Well one thing is for sure, I wouldn’t be doing a PhD.
Where I am now is greatly thanks to my parents endless support and the great teachings of each and every one of the professors who taught me in the department, and especially to my supervisors, for the scientific content they taught me in addition to many of the opportunities I had to continue my higher education.
Shadha Musallam,Earth and Environmental Studies’2009,PhD student of Hydrogeology
Department of Applied Geology (GZG)/ Faculty of Geology, Georg- August University of Göttingen. Germany