While I am not Jules Verne (or even Dr. Who for that matter) I have something in common with those fictional heroes of my childhood. Devotion to science and invention has propelled me from the cosmopolitan desert climes of Dubai to the rural, scenic beauty of Boise, Idaho. This may seem, perhaps, an untraditional path, but one that suits me quite well, for I consider myself somewhat unconventional. Although I grew up amid skyscrapers and luxury hotels, haut couture shopping and international visitors, it is at a peaceful Idaho college with a highly-ranked undergraduate engineering program that I hope to leave my mark for the betterment of humans everywhere.
The story of how I traversed from Dubai to Idaho is itself part luck, part skill, and part wonder. Always a student of electrical engineering and projects, with the encouragement of my husband and my huge extended family (thirty-three aunts and uncles), I entered a local science exhibition. My submission was a device I designed and built that allows sight-impaired individuals to enjoy improved hearing from many objects without having to touch them to activate any sort of mechanism. To the joy of myself and my kin I won first place in the competition, including a scholarship to study in the United States. Although it may seem an unlikely choice, I decided upon Boise State University, a school nestled amid mountains, canyons, wild rivers and in a state famous for potatoes—quite a departure from my favorite Arab and Japanese cuisines (such as sushi, which is based on a fellow carbohydrate, rice). Of course I had to trade the World Cup for the Super Bowl and perusing designer boutiques for shopping at mom and pop stores or strip mall, but I did not mind, because Boise State is one of the up and coming engineering schools in the country, in the top forty among those without PhD programs according to US News & World Report. So here I am, far away from most of my family, my culture, and mercifully my climate (Dubai is scorching hot while Idaho actually has four unique and pleasant seasons).
My days are busy and bifurcated. On the one hand, my very supportive husband and I are exploring what the United States has to offer in a very exciting time—during a presidential election. Television coverage of that feisty event, however, is somewhat overshadowed for us by the number of reality and game shows that seem to abound on U.S. television. As mentioned before, sports is also a big topic of conversation, with students speculating about the fate of our football and basketball “Broncos,” the latter of whom play in the charmingly-named Taco Bell Arena. My new American friends are eager to convince us of the superiority of American football versus what we know as football (called soccer here), not only detailing the intricacies of the game but many of the associated rituals. In particular, alcohol is mentioned frequently, which would not be the case in Dubai, a Muslim country (nor for me, since I am under twenty-one). Still, it is fun to learn of the traditions, the celebrities, the half-time shows and all the merriment that accompanies these games.
On the other hand, when not socializing about sports or shopping or sightseeing, I actually spend considerable time studying. After all, that is why I am here. I take what many of my friends consider a heavy or “geeky” course schedule, loaded with engineering, math and sciences. Fortunately most school children in Dubai learn English, so I am not at much of a disadvantage language-wise. Science is fairly uniform the world over as well, so I am also lucky in that regard. Although Idaho seems remote and sparsely populated in comparison to Dubai’s bustle, I am just a click away from the global scene via the internet, and I do much of my studying online. I find the number of courses, even lab experiences simulated through computers, to be incredible, offering me the opportunity to escape the confines of a physical lab and explore almost any scientific concept that comes into my head. Building upon my own device to assist not only the sight-challenged, but also hearing-impaired individuals, I have started work on radio wave amplification for placement detection as well. I may also consider mobility-enhancing prosthetics as part of my engineering future. Coming as a women from a country where men outnumber us nearly three to one, it gives me great pride to work in a nation where women are given equal opportunities to excel, especially academically, and I intend to take full advantage of this chance that I worked hard to earn. Someday I may be the first female Nobel Prize winner from Dubai via Boise—who knows? Anything is possible; me being here is proof of that.
Overall I would say that those meeting me may first notice my serious side, but soon realize that, if nothing else, I have a scientist’s curiosity about all things. My husband and I go to movies, white water rafting, experiment with foods such as banana splits (which would melt in seconds at home), have even eaten fried rattlesnake. We eat much more meat here than at home, and one of our favorite comfort foods to help us overcome feelings of loneliness for our family is tater tot casserole. Our friends seem quite fond of many kinds of casseroles, which appear to me to be diverse foods plopped in a pan and cooked until crusty and yummy (but, I suspect, full of calories). It is fortunate that Idaho has so many open spots for jogging in my spare time, otherwise I might return to Dubai having experienced much growth as a result of my time in the United States in more ways than one, so tasty and unique is the food.
To sum up myself, I would rank my desires in order of family, science, friends, food, activities, and ambition. At the bottom of my list of dislikes would be disingenuous people or those who do not give me a chance because I am different from most Boise State students. I cannot let such individuals or episodes get me down. If nothing else the United States has shown me that people and impressions change in a microsecond, and when I become a famous scientist those self-same naysayers may be first in line to shake my hand. And you know what? That is ok. I got a second chance, to come to America and pursue my dream—I am not one to deny others that same opportunity to start anew. Someday we may all be sharing tater tots and watching the Broncos against a beautiful, temperate Idaho skyline, with some of the audience benefitting from my engineering enhancements, and that for me would be paradise.