Youth In Focus: An Interview with Ola A.

A resident of the Khallet al Amood neighborhood, Ola graduated from An-Najah National University with a degree in Teaching English. She works part time as a secretary at the Culture and Science Center in downtown Nablus. This is her second session volunteering with TYO. Ola volunteer

You expressed preference for working alongside TYO's International Interns - why is that?

Simply, I find the exposure to many different people here at TYO valuable. While I had to make a few logistical changes to my academic schedule last semester, which consequently cut down my time with TYO, I knew I needed to make volunteering with TYO a priority if I wanted more exposure to the cultural exchanges available there. Working and talking with the interns allows me to expand my understanding of the world. I like hearing about their goals and future plans; I find they’re not so dissimilar from mine and that helps us connect on a deeper level. I see that these interns have traveled here and it helps push me to seek travel experiences. One day I  hope to complete my master’s degree abroad. I think learning abroad will help me come back with new perspectives on my own culture and how I might be able to create meaningful change for the country and the people. Working with the interns also helps me show them who Palestinians really are and what we’re capable of doing.

I also want to tie my studies into my volunteer work. I studied English Teaching at university and the opportunity to speak English with the staff and interns at TYO helps me improve my language skills. It is terrific practice for me.

What does your family think about your desire to travel?

My brother traveled abroad and he is younger than me! I feel like I need that unique experience, too. However, I need to work harder than he had to to convince my parents that traveling abroad is a good idea for me. Ultimately in our society, there is no equality for women. Society looks at us differently, and I think it’s primarily out of fear that we will be harmed. Women need to be protected and honored, but this reduces our movement and freedom. Deep inside, I believe my parents want what is best for me, and they know traveling would be the best experience. I know there’s a chance to negotiate, and for example they allow me to travel through the West Bank freely, more freely than many of my peers. This is a good start. I’m working to make a good case for myself. I want them to know that I will be all right, and this is where my experience with volunteering with foreigners is a good example for me to present to my parents. I want them to see that I am doing all I can here to prepare myself and that I am qualified! I want to add that my English language competency is very helpful and I think will help my parents see I’ll be safe and succeed.

After you come back from your international studies, what do you see yourself doing? When I come back, I want a full time job. The job market is very difficult in Palestine. Employers want work experience and then you get experience and they want more education. I have a lot of great experience working with TYO and I think going abroad to get more education would be a great way to get both, even more international experience and further my education. I think I would like to be a professor at the university. I would like to give back to my community and my language skills will be better after I return. But, my new experiences will provide for more perspectives so there may be a job I haven’t thought of yet. I know employers look at international education more highly; they want people who have graduated from English speaking countries. I want to be an example when I return. I want to show that working hard pays off and that traveling abroad will only open more doors.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator