Rawan is a recipient of Fobzu’s Dominic Simpson Memorial Scholarship, having previously been supported by the Dominic Simpson Memorial Trust, which closed in 2021. She has now graduated with a degree in Computer System Engineering from Birzeit University having excelled academically throughout her course. Before graduating, Rawan spoke to Fobzu about her university experience and shared some of the challenges that she faced. She told Fobzu what her scholarship has meant to her and why scholarships for Palestinian students are crucial.
Can you tell us a bit about your university experience in general?
I am a final year studying Computer system engineering. I graduated from school in 2018. I have a twin sister who started university at the same time as me but her course was three years long so she has already graduated. I am super excited to graduate, too. My personal circumstances meant I needed extra financial assistance in order to pay for university fees. This is why Fobzu scholarships are so important.
I love Birzeit University. My older siblings studied here as well. One of them studied mathematics and the other studied law. I live in halls near Birzeit University at the moment. My halls are slightly outside the university campus but only around a five-minute walk away so it is fine. I am from Jerusalem so being here is more manageable for me.
In terms of my course, I wanted to specialise in Computer Engineering and have enjoyed these past five years hugely. Birzeit has lots of extra-curricular activities that students can get involved with. Some are for fun and others relate to particular fields of study. For example, we attended an event which involved students being split into groups and playing games involving mathematics; I have also attended events on how to kickstart your career in your field where we learned about companies we may wish to pursue working with, both inside and outside of Palestine. I would say one of the positive things about Birzeit is that it tries to prepare you for employment and life after graduation. Birzeit bridges the gap between what you study in theory and practical considerations as to how and where you might work in future.
What part of your course did you find most interesting?
My course was split so that it focused on two key aspects of Computer Engineering, software vs hardware. I enjoyed studying software more because you can test your knowledge and explore your learning much more when studying software engineering. There are far fewer limitations placed on what you can do. Hardware is limited because of the lack of equipment we have access to.
Can you tell us about your experience as part of the BZU community?
My friends are all specialising in similar fields. It is more likely that you meet people who are studying related courses to those you take at Birzeit. There are also some general courses that all Birzeit students have to take such as Cultural Studies, Arabic and English courses. People in general are lovely. I have found my lecturers to be helpful and kind. There is a brilliant community and a lot of political engagement to ensure that we continue to be able to speak about our political reality and so that we don’t forget that we are Palestinian and that we share an experience here. As a community, we are connected to our political reality.
Can you share some of the challenges you faced?
I am a resident of Jerusalem so distance is an issue and travelling across checkpoints isn’t always so easy so I live in halls here. Being away from home is difficult. Also, Computer Engineering is a difficult speciality. It has been challenging and I have had to work very hard.
How do you feel about graduating soon?
I am super excited to be graduating soon. For my final project, I worked as part of a group and we looked at ways of improving the process of recovery for people who have had particular types of surgeries or procedures. We started by checking the most commonly performed surgeries in Palestine; these were joint replacement surgeries such as hip or shoulder replacements. In Palestine, there are up to 1000 joint replacement surgeries performed every day. When people come out of surgery they have to visit a physical therapist. At some point, they have to go home and do certain exercises alone at home in order to get better. This is often where relapse occurs or where recovery is compromised. Our app aims to support that final stage of recovery and to increase the likelihood that this part of the journey is successful and that people don’t relapse.
What are some of your plans and ambitions for the future?
I want to return home, to where my parents live in the Old City of Jerusalem. I am looking forward to being home and eating fresh food every day. I would like to specialise in back-end software programming. I hope I will be able to secure a job related to this speciality.
What advice would you give future students?
Study hard. You have to put in the effort. It is so worth it. Don’t complain about it being hard, we have time so just study hard and give it your best.