AUIS alumni | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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AUIS alumni

AUIS Graduates Accepted into Top Universities

Alka and Azheen will follow the path of several alumni who have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in the United States and Europe. AUIS graduates have been admitted to institutions such as the London School of Economics, Missouri State University, Bahcesehir University, the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies(SOAS) and Tufts University. Update July 2017: Alka Aziz has recently returned from Harvard University after completing her masters in Education, while Azheen is currently pursuing masters in International Policy at Johns Hopkins University.  Alka is still debating where to pursue her masters in International Education Policy. Her top choices included Harvard University and University of Michigan where she has been accepted. She is passionate about teaching and education policy and hopes to build a career in the field. She is currently working at an events management company in Sulaimani.  Azheen, who has been Alka’s friend and classmate since grade 5, enjoys studying international policy and applied to international policy and strategic studies programs. She has been accepted at both Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University. Azheen is also the first president of AUIS chapter of Sigma Iota Rho - the Honor Society for International Studies. Being part of the AUIS community has been a large factor in the personal and academic development, said both students, who have been active in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and internships while studying. They also give a lot of credit to their professors who have encouraged and guided them throughout their time at AUIS and with their applications. Alka, one of the first English graduates of AUIS, specifically thanked Professor Marie Labrosse for her guidance and support. “The English department professors are amazing,” saying that she believes that the English department offers one of the stronger programs at AUIS. She added that it's unfortunate that most students think there are not many career options with an English degree, whereas she received job offers as soon as she graduated and got accepted into the top schools of her choice. She also thanked Professors Loren Higbee and Zac Sitter for their support, and Professor Robert Moore for his guidance with her university application to his alma mater at Harvard. Azheen credits Professor Bilal Wahab’s classes for developing her interest in international policy, and his constant support and encouragement. She also thanked Dr. Tobin Hartnell and Christine van den Toorn, director of Institute of Regional and International Studies, for their support and guidance. The students also mentioned successful AUIS alumni were a source of inspiration for them. They mentioned Dina Meran ‘14 who is currently in the master’s program at The Fletcher School of Law at Tufts University. “She was such an inspiration to us. When she got into the Law School, she gave us the confidence that we could also do it,” said Azheen. “And, we hope that our example will give more confidence to other students that they can also apply and get into any school they want to study at.” Working on applications for top schools can be exhausting, challenging and a little intimidating, admitted both students; however, students should believe in themselves and not be deterred.  What advice do they have for other students? Start early Know all the application requirements Be honest Get volunteer and work experience while studying Believe in yourself! “If you have some work experience as a student, it matters a lot as well. I worked for two years at a school - it was only a few hours a day - but it mattered, and it also helps you find out what it is that you really want to do,” said Alka who has both work and volunteer experience of teaching. Azheen is an intern at the International Crisis Group. She worked on a report on the economic situation in Iraq with the ICG and she thinks that really helped her application to the universities. Both agreed that it helps to be clear and honest about why you want to apply to a certain program, “We were very honest about what we want to do and it was very clear from our application what we were passionate about,” said Alka. But most importantly, they say it is really important to believe in yourself and your own capabilities. “Don’t underestimate yourself. A lot of admissions officers and schools are so interested in our region, and our experiences here, being so close to war but being in a safe haven, I think we tend to underestimate ourselves and our intelligence,” they added.

Threat Of ISIS In Iraq

On July 30th, AUIS students from various cities in Iraq and Kurdistan region joined a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., via video to discuss the impact of the ISIS threat to Iraq. The event was co-hosted by Stimson Center and the Institute of Regional and International Studies at AUIS. Watch discussion here.

To AUIS Class of 2015, Set Your Goals High!

The AUIS 2015 Commencement brought tears of joy to my eyes. I was following the commencement pictures and videos that were shared by my fellow AUIS friends one by one. I didn’t pass any picture or video without either proudly liking or commenting on it. It just felt amazing! As an AUIS alumnus, I felt incredibly proud to see so many AUIS friends receiving the most prestigious degree one can achieve in the country - an AUIS degree. I would like to leave my message to all the AUIS Class of 2015 graduates. Warm congratulations my friends! You all truly deserve this big achievement and success! As a friend of each one of you, I would like to ask you to set your goals high; you will get them with this degree and the knowledge you have gained at AUIS. There is a bright future and new adventures waiting right around the corner for all of you. Please do not be afraid to aim high or to take up new challenges.  Do not be shy of applying to high positions or multinational companies locally or abroad. You can do it! I am currently working for one of the most well-known multinational companies in the world - Cisco Systems. I’m sharing a message to show you how much you will be able to accomplish through what  you have learned at AUIS; to let you know that you should feel confident to accept the most challenging works regionally or internationally. Dear Mahdi, Thank you very much for your continuous effort and passion in not only setting a clear strategy for your territory, but also for your innovative approach to generating business and your above and beyond focus on your partners and customers. The trust and relationship that you've built with them in such a short time is admirable. Please keep up the great work! Thanks, Muge. I wanted to share this success story to encourage you to set your goals high and to not be afraid of taking up new challenges. You can do it! Keep up the good work. Wishing you all great success in future.   Are you an AUIS alumnus? Do you want to share your share your AUIS journey too? Send it to [email protected] along with one or more good resolution photos. It shouldn’t be more than 500 words, and the email message should be clearly labeled ‘AUIS Alumni Stories’. We would love to hear from you!

AUIS Prepares Us to Become Global Citizens

Dina Dara Meran, Class of 2014
Four years ago when I graduated from high school, I applied to many universities in Iraq and abroad. I remember being so hesitant about deciding where to go. I also wanted to experience living away from home in a different city and making new friends other than knowing my family’s friends in Erbil. After some weeks, I remember receiving a text from AUIS saying I was accepted. It was late at night, and I ran to my dad excitedly with the news. It was obvious by then that my choice would be AUIS, and I have never regretted that. At AUIS, I did not only learn about international studies theories, Plato’s Republic, economics, world history, physics or journalism; I also had the chance to practice them through internships and activities on campus. AUIS strikes a good balance between theory and practice. AUIS is truly unique in a sense there is always so much going on at campus. There is always an interesting guest lecture, an event organized by a student club, a debate, a match, and all of these helped me grow and opened up so many doors. My best times at AUIS were spent taking part in the activities by the student clubs, especially the AUIS student newspaper,Voice. I enjoyed the bittersweet moments and the teamwork while publishing the newspaper.  I learned to network and make connections at AUIS. My internship experiences during the last four years with the Iraq Oil Report publication, General Consulate of the Republic of Turkey in Erbil, Development Iraq, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Institute of Regional & International Studies (IRIS) were arranged through AUIS. You always find an AUIS staff member, professor, administrator, or alumnus ready to help - whether it is for a class or a job you need to find, or a personal problem. It was at AUIS that I learned how to give to others, without expecting to receive anything back, especially through volunteer work. And I am proud to say that AUIS taught me the true meaning of citizenship and how to engage with my society. At the same time, just like any other American liberal arts institution, it prepared me to be a global citizen where I can understand the complexity of issues in the world as well.    It was also because of the education I received in AUIS that I could go to the oldest graduate school of international relations in the United States.  Today as I sit in the class, I can make arguments and contribute to the discussions just like any other graduate student. AUIS prepared me well in those four years for graduate school in the United States because of its liberal arts style education. Are you an AUIS alumnus? Do you want to share your share your AUIS journey too? Send it to [email protected] along with one or more good resolution photos. It shouldn’t be more than 500 words, and the email message should be clearly labeled ‘AUIS Alumni Stories’. We would love to hear from you!  

AUIS Makes the Impossible, Possible!

Mahdi Murad hails from the town of Ranya in the Sulaimaniyah Governorate of Kurdistan. He graduated from AUIS in 2014 with a degree in business administration. He currently lives in Amsterdam, Holland where he is working for a well known multinational company. After finishing high school, I was looking for a program that would allow me to focus on more than one field of study. The liberal arts education at AUIS was a great answer to my search. I joined AUIS because I found it a far better choice than any other available to me. Not to mention, AUIS is still the dream university for any student in the region! I achieved so many personal goals that might have been impossible at any other university. I not only majored in business administration, but I also became a journalist, a playwright, and a sports lover through the various extracurricular activities that AUIS offers its students. I believe that the extra knowledge and confidence that I gained, along with my degree, has been really helpful to me in getting hired by one of the most well known international companies around the world – Cisco! After I graduated, I turned out to be a businessman, a journalist, a playwright, and a worldwide traveler who visited more than 30 countries around the world mostly because of AUIS. Therefore, I would like to leave a message to my fellow students and friends in the region and at AUIS. To all AUIS students – I would like to encourage you to always be proud of the name of AUIS and always value what AUIS offers you. Last year, I was just a regular student and my dream was to graduate and get a simple job. Now, in less than a year, I got a job with one of the most competitive international companies in the world. This proves that AUIS makes the impossible possible and you, through AUIS, can easily achieve all your dreams. Respect AUIS, its curriculum, and its professors, because you will only understand how big AUIS is after you graduate! Are you an AUIS alumnus? Do you want to share your share your AUIS journey too? Send it to [email protected] along with one or more good resolution photos. It shouldn’t be more than 500 words, and the email message should be clearly labeled ‘AUIS Alumni Stories’. We would love to hear from you!  

My AUIS Journey

Sivar Qazaz hails from Sulaimani, Iraq. She graduated in 2012 with a degree in business administration from AUIS. She currently works for Kurdistan Save the Children in Sulaimani. In 2007 when the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) first opened its doors to students, I had already completed one year of education at another university, but I decided to quit everything and join AUIS where I saw a brighter future for myself. AUIS taught me more than words written in books. It reshaped my personality and made me a stronger yet more flexible person. It taught me to be free, more open minded and to coexist with others. Above all, AUIS taught me to be more responsible towards my society. AUIS is not a place where students study materials and memorize them for exams. It is a place where leaders are generated. This university is based on a liberal arts education, which means that students are taught to be flexible and adjust to various work fields once they graduate. The university’s strict attendance rules make students strong and capable of facing their tough work routines in the future and to be more committed. The numerous presentations, debates, projects and activities that AUIS offers are what make students effective decision makers and managers. Besides skills, AUIS teaches students to be active members in their society. The first time I learned about volunteer work was at AUIS. It was such an astonishing feeling to be able to make a difference in people’s lives without waiting for any return from them. From that moment, I decided to dedicate what I have learnt from AUIS to serve my society. Once I graduated, I was offered a great opportunity to work for a non-governmental organization that helps children – Kurdistan Save the Children. I’m still working there, trying to make a difference in the lives of children. The unique combination of practical and social lessons that AUIS provides to its students makes it the best place for people who want to have both successful social lives and careers. Are you an AUIS alumnus? Do you want to share your share your AUIS story too? Send it to [email protected] along with one or more good resolution photos. It shouldn’t be more than 500 words, and the email message should be clearly labeled ‘AUIS Alumni Stories’. We would love to hear from you!

AUIS Helped Me to Become A Better Leader

Mohamed Sabir
The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) has had a great impact on my life. In Iraq, we have always struggled for better leaders, but in terms of followers we have had more than enough. AUIS is here to create a new future for Iraq with leaders who believe in freedom, justice, and democracy. Before joining AUIS, I found difficulty in developing my goals, and I went through a period in my life in which I questioned everything.  I had trouble finding meaning in my life and questioned the value of education. This as I enrolled in university to study architectural engineering.  After attending classes for a couple of months, I decided to leave to attend AUIS. Everyone around me thought I was crazy for leaving a “prestigious college” to become a student at AUIS.  For me, however, it offered a life with purpose. Engineering to me was money, position, name and fame, but I did not find any meaning in those things, so, I began my journey to find meaning in life.  At AUIS, I began taking classes in the Academic Preparatory Program (APP). My English vocabulary was terrible, but, I quickly found my way and after several weeks of hard work, one of my teachers offered me a chance to move into a higher level because of my hard work. This quick success happened because I had good teachers and I spoke in English almost all the time. My undergraduate studies were a period of exploration in my life. In addition to studying the arts, history, and math, I became involved in student activities, I became a research assistant for several professors at AUIS, and also took on several internships. I was honored to be elected the International Studies senator and vice president of the first Student Association in 2013. I am now the president of the Student Association, which has done some remarkable work, but we face the same struggles as any new institution. I have benefited a lot from what I have been taught at AUIS, especially my class about politics and government, which taught me how to work with different ethnic groups and with people with different interests, something we face every day in the Student Association. I also joined a group friends and established a newspaper that has no ideology, but brings different perspectives to the reader. Primarily because of these two contributions, this summer I was given the chance to participate in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP).  IYLEP opened my eyes and it also made me more open-minded.  Before I was reading about political rights and freedom, but IYLEP gave me a chance to travel to the United States and experience first-hand these political rights and civil liberties. What I discovered was that leadership does not mean ruling people or people serving you, but rather it means as a leader, you serve the people you are leading.  As I developed new skills, I realized that I was actually taught the meaning of leadership by my father, who has always been a role model to me. And, I also realized that good leadership does not exist without love, and this I was taught by my loving mother. All of this, however, could not have turned me into a leader without AUIS. AUIS is what gave me purpose, along with the education and the opportunity to serve my community.  From here, the journey of my life continues as I continue to add more meaning to my life and to others. Mine is an unfinished story -for now. I do not want to do things for money or fame, but I want to do them so that I share what I was taught at AUIS: to be a leader who brings freedom, justice and democracy to our society.    

AUIS Graduate Leans In

Banu Ali at Lean In circle meeting
I was at the National Model United Nations conference in New York last year when I heard that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, wrote a book called “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” I went to a bookstore immediately to buy it. Initially, I feared that her book wouldn’t help me because I am from a different world. However, I realized after reading it that I have been through many similar situations. For example, like Sheryl, know what it feels like to be the only woman in the office. I also know what it is like to be labeled "bossy" when I try to lead. After reading “Lean In,” I became a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg. I admired how successful and hard working she is. A few months later, I started working at a non-profit organization, the Hiwa Foundation. One of the major projects at the Hiwa Foundation is translating books into Kurdish. After few months working there, I suggested we translate "Lean In." They loved the idea once they learned how powerful the book’s message is. With the support of the Hiwa Foundation and the Lean In Foundation, we got approval to translate the book. Distributing “Lean In” in Kurdish will help the local region to cast off the idea that women must be at home raising children while men work. With collaboration and looking at your wife or husband as a dedicated co-parent, we can build better families and societies. We can have more women sit at the table, as well as more women going back to school or to work with encouragement from their families and society.  My hope is to see more women as leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians and business owners. In addition to translating “Lean In” into Kurdish, the Lean In Foundation is supporting my efforts to start a Lean In circle at AUIS. What is a Lean In circle? It is a group of eight to twelve peers who meet monthly to explore professional topics and exchange personal experiences in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust.  Circles can be for both men and women. I believe AUIS can benefit from Lean In circles, which cover topics such as: how to know your strengths, how to communicate with confidence, how to negotiate, how to allow yourself to be brilliant.  I loaned my copy of “Lean In” to a few of my friends, and I was pleased to hear that they, too, were inspired by Sheryl’s ideas. Azheen Ihsan Fuad, an international studies major at AUIS, said, “when I first heard about 'Lean In,' I didn't think that it was going to be relevant to me because it was coming from a woman within the corporate world. I was, however, wrong in every possible way.Reading through the pages of ‘Lean In,’ especially when Sheryl wrote about of how she would always worry that she got a low grade on her exams and how her brother would think the opposite. In the end, they'd both get high grades. This wasn’t because her brother was being over-confident, but because of the low confidence she had. That was something that stayed with me, because when it comes down to expressing my opinions or 'keeping my hands up' within discussions duringclass, I always felt like my ideas were wrong. Or I would sometimes whisper the answers/opinions to myself. Yet at the same exact time, another person would word out exactly what I was thinking, leaving me more down than before. As an international relations student, it's important for us to express our opinions and keep our hands up, and what Sheryl was saying in her book, was the right push for me to actually keep my hands up and make sure what I was thinking was heard.” I encourage students to read the book and come join the circles. We are doing this to encourage you to lead. We hope to see as many men as possible in the circles, too. 

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