From Hebron to London: one student’s experience

hebron refugee camp

Asma’ Jawabreh grew up in the Arroub refugee camp in the south part of the West Bank, between Bethlehem and Hebron.

Obtaining a Felix Scholarship has provided Asma’ with one step on the long journey from Arroub to studying MA Critical Media and Cultural Studies at SOAS University of London.

Asma Jawabreh, Felix scholarship

Can you outline your circumstances, prior to studying in London?

“I grew up in Arroub camp, a Palestinian refugee camp in North Hebron.  My primary education was in United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools; my secondary education in a government school; and then I studied Media and TV at Al-Quds Bard College, an English language, American-style liberal arts institution.

“I then worked for Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA), where I covered different political, economic and educational stories regarding the situation in Palestine and Israel, along with publishing different opinion pieces, especially for Al-Fanar Media.   Some of these articles have been published in the Washington Post, and USA Today.  I write about different issues such as children detainees, the future of Hamas, and the opening of the Palestinian museum in Ramallah.  I write pieces that reflect my life in Palestine.” 

What made you want to study at SOAS?

“As a Palestinian journalist, who lived and worked in an unstable political environment, I wanted to dig deeper into understanding and comprehending critical theories and practical approaches related to media, cultures, and gender.  Therefore, I was looking for a course that offers a melting pot of all these issues.  I kept searching and reading about several programmes in different universities, and SOAS was one of them.  After reading about the MA Critical Media and Cultural Studies programme, I felt that this programme fitted my interests and needs.  The programme has a strong theoretical approach to develop students’ understanding and critical thinking.  What I like most is the opportunity to select optional modules from different departments and programmes.  This gives the space for students to widen their knowledge by engaging several disciplines and topics with each other.  Furthermore, the diversity of students and faculty at SOAS encouraged me to apply.”

“I love studying in a place where I do not feel like a foreigner or insecure as a Hijabi woman.”

How did you go about applying for a scholarship?

“Applying for a scholarship requires important steps ranging from writing a personal statement, universities’ application procedures, academic references, to funding ––the most difficult step.  SOAS’s application process is well-organised and easy-going.  I did not encounter any problems while filling it out.

“In my personal statement, I mentioned several courses that I took in my undergraduate studies that overlap with modules that the MA Critical Media and Cultural Studies programme offers.  I also related my experiences with ARA and my work as a post-baccalaureate teaching fellow at Al-Quds Bard College.

“I applied for the Saïd Foundation Scholarship programme, where I was interviewed twice, and the British government’s Chevening Scholarship.  However, I was not selected by either.

I kept checking the SOAS website more than once a day, and I discovered the Felix scholarship.  The application was not open at that time, but after the application opened, I applied.  In the end, I was surprised how easy it was.”

How are you enjoying studying in London?

“London is a great multicultural city.  This atmosphere enriches my personal and academic experiences by meeting students from all around the world.  London also has great museums and facilities for students such as the British Library and lots of public libraries, where I can read and study.  Besides these educational institutions, London has vast green parks where I can relax and have time for meditation, especially in Regent’s Park.”

What do you hope to do after graduating?

“As a young female, I would like to reduce gender discrimination in the media field.  Women have the right to study and work in the field that they like.  From my experience, there are several courses that Palestinian universities don’t currently teach, especially topics where there is a cross-over between media and social sciences, such as human rights, inequality, and feminism.  Therefore, I plan to teach media, gender theories, and cultural change at a Palestinian university.”

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