In university, my professors did not always take us seriously.
"Western students are smarter than Emiratis," they would say – an all-time insult. It was not unusual for teachers to proclaim in class how Western students were much more conscientious than we were. One of my teachers disparaged the class by saying: "I cannot even burn your essays because that's how horrible they are".
The class couldn't bear his frequent insults so a group of us complained to the dean of the department. We had high expectations from the college, but unfortunately we were not taken seriously. Too many professors believe Emirati students wants A's without putting in the extra effort.
One student wrote an exceptional essay, but the teacher doubted her. "Did you really write that?" the teacher asked? Some people make us feel that we are foolish and cannot get things done properly. We are still working to break these stereotypes.
It is my wish to see exemplary Emirati students who not only represent their country but become role models for others to follow.
After what I witnessed at the Tawdeef Exhibition, a careers fair, it feels like my wish will come true some day.
My colleague Ayesha Al Khoori and I were asked to cover the event. When we arrived there was a throng of Emirati-job seekers. I was wrong about Emirati males becoming extinct: men outnumbered women at the exhibition.
I felt weird because even though I had journalist credentials, people thought I was too young to be a real journalist. Nevertheless, I set out to interview people.
I stopped two guys who were wandering, introduced myself and asked if I could interview them. The interview went like this:
Me: Do you plan to pursue college since getting a job with only a high school certificate is difficult? Omar: I hate studying, I attended this exhibition seeking ANY job. Me: What kind of skills do you have or what kind of job do you want? Omar: I do not have any skills, I am going to distribute my CV and see which company accepts me.
It is no wonder people have a bad impression and stereotype us.
This teenager was so blunt, If he was my brother I would have strangled him right there. I couldn't go on with my interview. One thing was certain – he is getting pampered by his family.
I tried to look for some intelligent people (although I'm not sure what intelligent people look like). I stopped a few people and most of them were intimidated. One of the girls said: "I do not want to be on TV, please find someone else for your interview". I was not even carrying a camera or a microphone, what made her think I wanted to put her on television?
Eventually, I found a girl who seemed smart. I asked her: You are still studying in college, what motivated you to attend this event? Her response was very clear. She said: "I attended the exhibition to see what kind of skills companies look for in a candidate. Also to take note of available jobs and to make sure I will have a seat when I am a graduate." I was impressed by her confidence and her ability to express herself.
I asked her my second question: Getting a job is difficult nowadays as you can see. Do you fear your future career? She said: "I love studying and I like challenges, I am studying to be an engineer not because it is a well-paid job, but I have passion for it. To attain anything, one needs to prove herself, things do not come to you easily. I am certain I will get a good job and I will represent my country."
I am sure such girls will become role models to emulate.
Most of the attendees were undergraduates and I observed some of their facial expressions when they were being interviewed by companies. Some companies guaranteed jobs for those who were serious and diligent.
After this job fair, I feel more confident that our young people are moving in the right direction.