Sunday, 4 March 2007

My Last Blog Entry

As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” I’ve been blogging for almost a year now, and I’ve really enjoyed it, but I am now a fully fledged AUC graduate, and I guess “My life @ AUC” doesn’t really apply to me anymore.

I know I haven’t really elaborated on my graduation ceremony, but suffice to say it is something that has to be experienced and cannot be described. All I can tell you is that my speech was a smashing success, el hamdulela (thank god), and that speaking in front of 1,600 people was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

I’ve poured a lot of my life out on these pages in the past year, my ups and downs, my successes and failures, and it’s difficult to think of how to wrap it up. Leave you with a funny joke? A meaningful thought? Or just ramble on as I am sometimes prone to do? I have no idea if there’s actually anyone who has read all the way through my blog, and if there is then who they are and what they think of it. In either case, there’s no denying that I have enjoyed writing here.

Life is strange sometimes. The paths you can take are numerous and the choices can sometimes seem overwhelming. Every experience in your life changes you in some way, and every time you take a decision, you have to think to yourself “Why am I doing this? What will I get out of it?”

I just came back last week from a conference in Turkey on religion and politics. I got involved in a number of heated debates, some of them seriously thought-provoking and the kind that press all the wrong buttons (or right ones, depending on your point of view).

I came out of it a little clearer on some things, and slightly fuzzier on others. But one thing I came out of was that I need to work on myself. I need to learn more, see more, experience more. And I have vowed to do so.

I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years, but somehow, that’s ok. I know the best job candidate is the one who knows where s/he’ll be in the future and has it all mapped out but I disagree. I believe that as long as I have a purpose for what I’m doing, then I’m on the right path. Right now I’m working in a job I would only have dreamed about last year, and I’m happy. It’s not what I was planning but I’m not disappointed, for this is where my path has led me. It could take me somewhere completely different in a couple of months, but for now, I’m satisfied.

Al Salam Alaykum wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatu

Thursday, 15 February 2007

The Search for the Holy Ticket…

Every graduating senior at AUC is officially given four invitations (or as I call them, holy tickets), and you have to trawl all over three campuses to get clearances before you are allowed to take them. Go to the library, get a piece of paper with the amount you are fined (in my case 92.5 LE), go to the CACE (Center of Adult Continuing Education), pay the cashier, take the receipt to the library and you are given one red clearance card.

You then go to the registrar, where you wait in line for an hour to take back the credentials you gave in when you applied to university, and are given one green clearance card.
Next is the accounts office, where you make sure your account balance is 0 before you are allowed to take the last white clearance card.

Off you head to the Hill house, where your ID is scrutinized before you are carefully handed invitations more valuable than Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. Two are green and are for your parents to attend the entire ceremony, and two are blue for siblings or friends to attend the second part only, which is the presentation of the diplomas.

This is where we come to the crux of the problem. The first half of the ceremony is where the speeches are given, including mine, and the awards distributed. This meant that only my parents were going to be in attendance when I gave the speech and maybe won the cup.
Drama, drama, drama. What to do? I needed more invitations. My grandma insisted on showing up, and if I invited her then I must invite my grandfather. But what about my brother and sister? Off I went on the search for tickets more precious than gold. I call them tickets because they are earned and not given, if not with cash then in some other way.

First off, you call everyone you know and send them messages. Lucky me, my phone had somehow been infected with a virus and sent the message 150 times to every person I’d sent it to. Very costly and it turned up nada.

Result: Still 2 green tickets, 2 blue tickets.

For three days I came to university and begged anyone I could from the administration: “I’m giving the speech and nominated for the cup! Please give me tickets! No. One ticket? No. Exchange the blue tickets with green ones? No.”

Depressed, I logged on to facebook and lo and behold! On the group “AUC Class of Fall ‘06,” someone had posted saying they were selling their tickets for the second half of the ceremony. I called her up immediately and bought the tickets, which I received the next day at university. Yes!

Result: 2 green tickets, 4 blue tickets.

Facebook had proven to be a great help, so I messaged everyone and although no tickets were forthcoming, I received a very useful piece of advice: I should try and ask the person in charge of the tickets and maybe he’d be able to give me some. So I sent him an email, and he asked me to come to university. I went to his office and was told to come back in an hour. Heart racing I went to him and…result! One more ticket. Alas, it was also for the second half of the ceremony.

Result: 2 green tickets, 5 blue tickets.

February 8th 2007: Graduation day. We head over for the rehearsal at the absurd time of 8:30 in the morning. I had been up all night calling people, and had managed to find someone who knew someone who wanted to exchange her green tickets for blue tickets, since her parents didn’t want to listen to boring speeches. I got her number, called her at night and again at 8 am in the morning to remind her, and zoned in on her as soon as I got to the conference center. The switch was furtively carried out. Success!!

Result: 4 green tickets, 3 blue tickets.

Then began my campaign of begging and plaintively explaining my case in as heart-wrenching tones as I could: “I’m giving the speech! I’m nominated for the cup! And my family won’t get to see me! Why would your parents want to listen to boring speeches anyway? I’d be doing you a favor!” After harassing half the graduating class, two potentials had told me they may be interested, and would let me know at the end of the rehearsal. So I sit with a pounding heart and wait for them to make their decision…would I be going home with a million dollars?

Rehearsal was over….and success! One of the girls had disappeared, but the other told me she would switch, only she didn’t have the tickets on her. She would go get them from her house, after which she would be in Nasr City for a while running errands and would meet me up somewhere. But she insisted I hand the tickets over, and I did so with a heavy heart…worried that somehow she would snatch up my precious tickets and disappear. My fears were expounded later on when I told my friends and their reaction was mostly: “Gasp! You did what?!”

So with thoughts of those two precious tickets, I remained behind after all the graduates left to practice my speech. But while I waited for the sound people to turn off the noise, I thought I would try my luck with the woman giving invitations to the last batch of graduates who had, for some reason or another, not received their tickets yet. She was surrounded by a number of people begging for extra tickets so I waited until they left and presented my case. She looked at me with speculative eyes and curtly told me I was too late, but to come back in an hour.

I loitered around her for a while, sighing wistfully, and was asked by a member of administration what was wrong. Once again I recited my story and watched him look at me in an assessing way. After I was done with rehearsing my speech he took me to the side and gave me his own green ticket!!!!!! Astonished by this piece of good fortune, I nearly hugged him before running off grinning like an idiot. I had the good sense not to press the invitation lady who had witnessed this interaction.

Result: 5 green tickets, 3 blue tickets.

And now off to switch two of my blue tickets. It was 2pm already, which meant I was cutting it close since I still had to drop off my friends, go back home and change and pick up my family to be back by 5 at the conference center, but I was determined: I would get those tickets. After a few wrong turns I found our meeting place and waited. And there she was! Driving up in her blue Lancer, carrying the two beautiful tickets! It almost made me weep with joy. She passed them through her window and I cradled them to my chest, ecstatic with joy.

Result: 7 green tickets, 1 blue ticket.

Now this is where the nature of human beings is clear. I had seven green tickets, and eight overall while most of the graduates had only two green ones and four overall, and still I wished I could exchange the last one…because who would I pick to come halfway? Certainly not my parents or grandparents…but I couldn’t choose between my brother and sister, or aunt and aunt could I? As I worried and fretted, my friend’s phone rang and with it came an act of divine grace.

The girl that had disappeared? Well, it turns out she couldn’t find me and managed to track me through my friend, and (drum roll please)… she wanted to exchange her two green tickets!!! Struck dumb, I could only mutely nod while I contemplated my luck and the circumstances. We were late, I didn’t know her address, and I only had one ticket but I felt I could surmount the odds. I instructed her to send the green tickets with her driver near Heliopolis club, which was near my house, and made my way there as fast as I could. And with another stroke of luck, my friend was willing to switch her blue ticket for a green ticket, since she was giving it to a mutual friend anyway and I would be doing her a favor.

We parked in front of cinema Normandy, obsessively checking our watches every 30 seconds, until the driver finally appeared. He handed over his precious charge, and I wanted to dance with glee. But no time no time no time. I handed my friend her green ticket before asking her to take a cab home (rather rude I know) because we were late late late. But I didn’t care. I had managed to achieve and surpass my objective, and was grinning from ear to ear like a lunatic.

Result: 8 green tickets!!!! :)

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

I is almost a graduate :)

Yesterday was the first day of class, and for the first time in four years, I actually went.
For me, skipping the first day of class has become a ritual of a sort. It’s the day when most professors only give out syllabi, or discuss the outline of the course. Few actually start teaching right away, and so I usually skip to savor one more precious day of freedom.

But now that I’m officially a graduate (or I will be in two days time!) I found myself getting up at 10am and driving to university in my graduation present; a gorgeous new car I’ve been salivating over for ages. So graduation definitely has its perks, but I can’t deny that it felt bittersweet to sit on the plat while my friends rushed to class or lamented over the fact that they were only registered in two courses, and to realize that this scenario was no longer part of my world, and that a significant chapter of my life is finally over. It only just started to sink in when I attended the career conference held by the CAPS office, where everyone was talking about where they’re going in life and what they want to do.

I’m only 19 years old. I’ve never really thought about how different that makes me to most of my friends, and if I’m truly ready for the real world. My sister is only a year younger than I am, and she’s only graduating from high school this year. I worked so hard to get done so early, but now I’m starting to think maybe I rushed too fast. It’s hard to think that I can no longer be carefree and living the life of a student; I’m now officially an adult, even though I’m content to live a little first.

My graduation speech was selected, and this Thursday I’m going to be giving it to almost 1,000 people. I was ecstatic beyond belief when I learned that it was chosen, but now I’m starting to have panic attacks and am having nightmares about getting up and not being able to do it. But insh’Allah I’ll be fine. I just need to remember to breathe and to not think about all the people and just concentrate on my speech. It’s a great honor to be giving it and to be chosen as a representative of my class. I’m guessing it would be selfish to hope I get the cup too :)

In any case, I’ll keep you updated as usual.
Until next time,

Monday, 22 January 2007

Letter from the unemployed :)

Wow, how time flies…I can’t believe it’s been more than a month since I last wrote! I finished my finals on the 21st and traveled to Dubai a couple of hours after my history final (In fact, I finished up my very last research paper in the airport—with people staring suspiciously at me thinking I was a VIP or alternatively a spy).

So what have I been up to since I came back? Well, mostly catching up on all the movies and books I missed out on reading the last four years. I am now officially addicted to One Tree Hill and Prison Break :) I was supposed to travel to Kuwait but my plans were postponed to next week so I’ve basically enjoyed lazing around and have decided to continue doing absolutely nothing until after Graduation.

Speaking of graduation, I was nominated for the Parent’s Association Cup, which is a really big honor since only 4 or 5 graduating seniors out of around 400 get nominated. The cup goes to the graduating senior who has managed to participate in a big number of activities and still maintain a high GPA. So…who knows?

Our cap and gown photos have been postponed to February second, but I’m off to AUC tomorrow to get fitted for them and to submit my proposed graduation speech. I’m not too sure how good it is, but even if it’s not accepted, at least I know I made the effort.

So, my plans have solidified slightly since I last wrote. I’ve decided to start working as an English reporter, and I was trying to figure out if I’d prefer working in a magazine such as Egypt Today or in a newspaper. Today I had a job shadowing experience with The Daily Star, Egypt’s only independent English daily newspaper, and that cinched it for me. The experience I’d get from working in a daily is so much more than what I’d get working in a monthly.

The entire day I was basically grinning at how perfect this job seems for me and how much I’d enjoy doing it. We got to follow Mr. Firas Al-Atraqchi, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper (only for some reason he’s just called ‘the editor’), and got a chance to talk to a lot of different people who work there. And coincidentally, a lot of the people on the staff worked on the Caravan at some point, usually as editor-in-chief. Insha’Allah one day they’ll be just as proud as having worked in Dimensions :)

If anything though, the day showed me how important extra-curricular activities are when applying for a job—it’s not just your major and your GPA that count. I thought that majoring in Business but applying for a job in journalism was going to be difficult, but it turns out that a lot of people work in jobs unrelated to their majors. I may decide to do my masters in mass communication later on if I feel that I’m 100% committed to the journalism field, so that will hopefully fill in any blanks I have. In any case, I’m planning to take the GMAT soon.

So I’m going to apply to the Daily Star, and hopefully I’ll get the job. I’ll keep you updated as usual…

Salam Alaykum,

PS: I have an article coming out in Det Frie Ord (The Free Word), a magazine in Denmark next month on my personal reflections on the cartoon crisis…go me