PART I One year ago I was a senior at AUIS getting ready for my finals, finishing my research paper on the status of business under the Kurdistan Regional Government, pondering about my life after graduation, and thinking that hopefully our graduation ceremony will be grand enough to make my parents proud and see the fruit of all the investment and trust they had in me. Now, I am in Syracuse, New York about to finish my Master’s degree in Public Administration. The weather is gorgeous. Spring just started about fifteen days ago; we had snow from late December until mid-April. The trees are getting green again. The flowers are blossoming with fascinating colors. The sky is clear blue with pure clouds scattered above us. The air is not too hot; it is not too cold. It is just perfect. I study at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Administration, Syracuse University. The ranking of universities in the U.S came out two weeks ago, and my school got ranked No.1 for my field again. We are all happy about it. My second semester just ended and the results of my classes were no lower than the best and brightest students of the school. I thoroughly enjoyed every single class I have taken here. I don’t take any credit for my success. Every step I go further humbles me and makes me to try harder in the next step. Every further step I take I think about all the people and things that have helped me to get where I am now. I write this article not to say things about myself but as a person who has studied at AUIS and looks at the school as one of few things that prepared me to be here. It is a story that should resonate with many of my AUIS friends. I write this article because I think my friends at AUIS need to hear an outsider perspective of their school. An outsider who studied at AUIS for four and a half years. An outsider whom, when they still ask him “where do you to school,” really wants to say “the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.” I want to tell you a bit about my background before going to AUIS. I had a humble background. I had to work during the summer and winter throughout my childhood until I got to AUIS, just like many of my friends at AUIS. My father used to be a farmer. I want to tell you one of the few words of advice he ever gave me. When I was growing up he was telling me “Son, we are all farmers in this world. You have to work hard to have a good season. You have to be patient because crops don’t bear fruits earlier. If you cheat and try to have shortcut you will have bad crops. When storms destroy your farm, and don’t forget next year will always come. And son, never let people discourage you from being a good and honest farmer.” That is one piece of advice I will never forget in my life, and I try to live up to it every single day. I didn’t care much about education until I was sixteen. When I cared I cared about it just like a farmer who cares about his crops because they are his only means of survival. Education was never a step for life; it was life, or it was to get to the life I pursue. I graduated from high school with high grades. I was thinking about what and where to study to get to my goals. I chose AUIS. The school gave me full scholarship. I didn’t know any English. I was put in level two of EWPLE, now APP. Simple, because they didn’t have level one. I was the lowest performing student in the class in level two. I put more effort more than any students in the class for the following semesters. This is what I do, when I realize I am the low-performing person in a group. I don’t give up but, rather, try harder. AUIS was a small university with fewer than fifty students. Going there was the riskiest move I had taken in my life up to that point. Some people were saying it is a fake university. I know it seems funny to hear that now, but some were saying it is only for rich people; some were saying it will be closed by the government, and many people around me were saying I don’t know English and going there is a suicide for you. But I was convinced AUIS was the key that would open some of the doors to my goals. I took that risk because I had big goals for myself. Part II My AUIS time was not all rosy. I had difficult times. I had times of frustration. There were times I was wondering what on earth I was doing there. There were times I thought nothing would work out for me, just like when a farmer has a bad season. I was criticizing the school for any wrong doing and injustice I thought was occurring. There were classes I never wanted to attend, and there were classes I thought I should not take. And throughout my time we had dorm problems. This one sentence doesn’t do justice to all the suffering the early AUIS students went through who stayed in dorms. But isn’t it how life is, too?! I never realized what I got from AUIS until I started my master’s degree at Syracuse University in New York. The AUIS core classes in math, statistics, religion, world history, literature, and fine arts were all extremely beneficial for me both when I took GRE exam -- an exam you have to take to get to graduate schools in the United States--and when I was having discussions from people all over the world, and people with different faiths, ideas, ideologies, and cultures. I always had something to talk about with those people because I studied a bit about them at AUIS and did more reading myself. I have made numerous friends this way. When I started my master’s degree I never felt I was studying in a different system. I never felt I was behind any other students in the school. I had classmates from Harvard and other top universities in the U.S. I was wishing I could be back at AUIS and thank my professors and instructors one by one in person. I met some of the in the U.S and I hugged them while thanking them for all they have done for me. In my time here I didn’t have to study extra hours like many other international students. Instead I went skiing, hiking, swimming, played soccer, am travelling the country, can improve my Farsi and Arabic with Arab and Persian friends, and, of course, still read a lot of books of my personal interest. I have had good times here because I sometimes needed less time to study for a class than most American students. I think this has to do a lot with my time at AUIS. Part III If you are an AUIS students now and reading this, I am sure you have many complaints, many things that discourage you from working harder. I am sure you feel like AUIS never meets your expectations. I know you had a lot of expectations; I did too. Did AUIS meet all my expectations? No! But I think Harvard University also wouldn’t have met all my expectations, either. When I was at AUIS there were some students who didn’t try because they were not happy with the classes they were taking, some of their professors, their classmates, and many more things. Many of my friends and I tried to choose another path. We tried to work hard; we tried to change things by actions; we set long-term goals, and we tried to be patient with the small obstacles that would come our way. We knew a wise man’s saying that only the fools expect good things to happen overnight. Now, I am an AUIS alumnus, and if you ask me if I could go back in time would I choose the best university in the US over AUIS to do my undergraduate studies, my answer would be absolutely NO. I say no because I know the good friends I made at AUIS. These are friends who will remain in my heart forever. Friends I spent four and a half years of my life with and would be willing to spend the rest of my life with. Friends who opened my heart to love my country more, to love human beings more, and opened my eyes to see the beauty of the world. Friends I wholeheartedly believe will change the future of my country for the better. And right now my former roommate, Ramyar Faris, is an AUIS alumnus and studies IT in the iSchool, which is ranked among top 10 schools in the US for IT. I say NO because I think I had professors who had the same standard of teaching as professors in the best US universities. I can say that because I have had now professors from Harvard and other top universities teach me. I can say it because my current university is ranked No.1 for my field in the US. I say NO because AUIS opened my mind and gave me a global perspective to everything that is happening around me. What you can get out of AUIS all depends on you, your goals, your ambition, and the people around you. You can choose to be like a lazy farmer who doesn’t care about crops and is fine with bad crops. You can always find reasons for your failures. But you can choose to be overcome difficulties. You can look at the difficulties and challenges as ways to prepare you for the world outside of AUIS. Trust me; I never regret the times I had to stay up all night reading books and then wake up early to go to AUIS. I stayed late night studying with my friends. We woke up early and went to class together. And sometimes we slept in boring classes together, or I should say we took turns to sleep in class. We had fun together; If one of us had a difficult time we were all there for each other. The sense of community and being having friends I have seen at AUIS I have never seen in any other universities in the U.S. I thought we had a wonderful graduation at AUIS. My parents were really proud to see their son is one of the top students at the best university in the country. That was the point they knew I had been doing well at AUIS in terms academic performance. When I was at AUIS my dad was only telling me be good to my friends, and my mom was saying she doesn’t care how many degrees I have, and she only wanted me to be a better human being. I hope you also never look at AUIS just as a place of prestige and boast about it among people. I hope you don’t look at a degree from AUIS just as a way to a better life. I think a door to a better life is yourself, your potential, how much you work for them. AUIS can be a good key for that door, but remember a key doesn’t open a rusty door. I hope you are happy that you are at AUIS. I am happy I am an AUIS alumnus. If it is not clear what you will do after AUIS don’t worry about it. Just do your best and trust yourself that whatever come after AUIS you will do well in it. I didn’t know I was going to this school until fifteen days before my graduation at AUIS. If you are an AUIS student and want to be in touch with me you can do so through my email: [email protected] I would love to hear from you.
The report indicates that 90 percent of the total respondents are either employed, in graduate school, not looking for work, or have received job offers. Of these, 60 percent are employed full time, with only 9 percent reported as unemployed or having not received job offers. A positive trend this year is an increase of 15 percent in average monthly salaries for graduates. However, the results did show some disparity between average salaries for men and women. The women’s average salary is 26 percent less than the average for all salaries, and 35 percent less than men’s average salary per month. AUIS graduates work in a broad range of industries, and are employed in 58 different organizations. Companies employing the highest number of graduates include well-established names like Audi Bank, Western Zagros, Lafarge, AUIS, Qaiwan, Ernst & Young, Bahar Group, Kelkan, and the IOM. Most graduates are working in the oil and gas industry followed by banking and finance, accounting and retail, education, and IT and telecommunications. “I was very happy to see that AUIS alumni are in such high demand, receiving so many job offers from very diverse employers. Even in difficult circumstances, our alumni are thriving in their fields,” said Morgan McDaniel, career services coordinator. “The survey also showed that even after graduation, our alumni are benefiting from AUIS Career Services, so I am happy that they still view AUIS as a valued resource.” A majority of graduates reported high levels of satisfaction with their career paths, with 90 percent very satisfied or generally satisfied with their current jobs. Seventy-six percent of those employed feel that AUIS prepared them very well or more than adequately for their careers. Thirty-six percent of employed respondents said that they work is directly related to their field of study, and 55 percent said that their work is somewhat related to their field of study. Of the alumni who are currently studying in graduate schools, 67 percent reported that they were accepted into their first choice of programs. A majority are pursuing their degrees internationally, mostly in Europe.