Malak Mokkadem is the kind of student you are always happy to have in a class. And it turns out I might never have her as a student again: she’s in the last semester of a three-year degree, majoring in English. She was kind enough to thank me for interviewing her, when in reality we should all be grateful to her for providing such interesting and honest answers to my questions.
JLH: Can you talk a bit about what made you decide on Waterloo? And why English?
MM: Most people have entirely academic reasons for choosing Waterloo; for me it was a very emotion- based decision. When I got accepted at the University of Waterloo, my grandfather was sick with leukemia. He always encouraged me to keep on trying to improve academically, and take risks. One of the key things my grandfather advocated for was education. He saw it as endless, limitless, and multidimensional. When I received the e-mail that welcomed me to this university I was overjoyed and immediately informed every member of my family. Even though all reactions were great, none were equal to my grandfather’s. He was so proud and smiley. It felt good to know that I could bring him a glimmer of hope in the midst of his condition. Sadly, he lost his life a month after my acceptance. He never became aware of the other universities that wanted me. I felt that I needed to go to the University of Waterloo after seeing the look on his face and the smile in his eyes. I chose this university not because of its outstanding reputation, though it undeniably has one; rather I chose it because it felt right to me.
Choosing English was not an easy decision at first. English wasn’t always the place I excelled, but it has become something I am truly passionate about. I enjoy reading plays, studying texts outside of our time, and momentarily engaging different world views. I like how English offers glimpses into so many different realms of study. When you study English you simultaneously take up studies in history, anthropology, psychology, and women. Though I at one point thought my major would be in geography or visual arts, English at the University of Waterloo surpassed my former choices and has become something I truly love.
JLH: You’re nearing the end of your degree. When you look back, are there things you might have done differently?
MM: Looking back now, I think I would like to change my lack of extracurricular involvement, and my ignorance of co-op. In my short but incredibly inspiring time here at UW, I have completely avoided getting involved. I have a tendency to invest all my time into studying; it seems I have always been too busy for clubs and events. My experience here could have easily been much more interactive had I chosen to open up and take in the infamous university experience. My ignorance of co-op is also something I regret, co-op definitely gives students experience and glimpses into what life after university is like. These are probably the only things I would change if I could.
JLH: What are you really glad you have done?
MM: I’m glad I have connected with the majority of my professors. I really feel that they have all helped me academically and in ways that are applicable to the rest of my life. I don’t think my university experience would be anything great without the encouragement I have gotten from my previous and current professors.
JLH: Are you thinking about employment, or just getting through the last semester?
MM: At this point it’s a little bit of both for me. Every time I realize this is my last term I start thinking of where I will end up. My plan was initially to go to Lebanon (where my family originates) and get international experience as an English teacher. Unfortunately, nothing has been confirmed just yet. For now I’m just taking things as they come.
JLH: What are you looking forward to reading after you no longer have syllabi to follow?
MM: I really want to read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This is probably going to sound bad, but I watched the movie and then realized I needed to read the book. It was far too good to be contained in a couple of hours. It currently sits on my bookshelf patiently awaiting me.