A Student About to Graduate Ponders the Question, What’s Next?

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Al-Fanar Media).

“What are your plans after graduation?” This always seems to be the first question someone politely asks a university student about to graduate. I never found this a polite question, but when I was asked to write an essay reflecting on that question, I confess, my mind went into overdrive.

Since a young age, I saw myself as destined to become an academic. l would teach younger relatives how to count in English and Arabic and put up a toy whiteboard to give each day’s lesson, taking what I learned at elementary school and implementing it at home. I would even ask them to call me Mrs. Haifaa, as a teacher would be called. But to become an academic in the truest sense of the word, I would need to continue my education beyond a bachelors’ degree.

While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down borders, it has also, paradoxically, opened other doors for students and academics. With websites like Coursera, a platform for online courses developed by two professors at Stanford University, which my university has introduced to students this semester, it has become possible for students across the globe to attend lectures provided by prestigious American institutions like Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, Boston University and New York University. (See a related Al-Fanar Media resource, “A Guide to Top Platforms for Online Courses.”)

While I much prefer face-to-face learning, I do see opportunities that do not require me to travel in order to receive a quality education. That lessens the blow of not being able to move abroad to pursue my passion of writing, as, to my dismay, there are no degrees in the niche program of creative writing as of yet in Saudi Arabia.

My original plan post-graduation was to move to Europe in order to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing. I now plan to stay closer to home because of the uncertainty that comes with the pandemic. I would feel more comfortable being in my hometown amongst my family, at least until life resumes a somewhat normal course. While I realize the situation will never be totally as it was before Covid-19, I feel at ease with the opportunities being offered to me remotely.

“My original plan post-graduation was to move to Europe in order to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing. I now plan to stay closer to home because of the uncertainty that comes with the pandemic.”

Several of my professors at Effat University, in the department of English and translation, have offered me assistant professor positions, to work beside them and to learn from them post-graduation. I am very flattered by this interest and support and do see myself returning to contribute to my university in some way or another. I have also been toying with the idea of entering a masters’ degree program at the prestigious King Abdulaziz University, in Jeddah, immediately after obtaining my bachelors’ degree. Perhaps I could do both simultaneously, if I felt capable of taking on responsibilities of both a paying job and a graduate degree.

I do feel fortunate to have been offered these opportunities before I have even graduated, which implies I must be doing something right in my field, as both a student and hopefully, a future academic.

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It has been a long journey for me to reach the finish line of the undergraduate phase of my education, as switching majors and universities were obstacles in my path. But I have no regrets whatsoever, as I have made friends along the way and met the most inspiring professors as well.

As the days and months draw closer to my graduation, I find myself wanting to slow down. That seems ironic, since from our first semester at university, we students are counting down the days until we get to wear our commencement robes, hear their names called, and walk across the stage with a degree in hand. But now, once the day draws near, all I want to do is edge away from it.

Haifaa M. Mussallam is a 23-year-old published poet and almost a graduate in English literature from Effat University, in Jeddah.


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