Meet RELO Alumna Omnia from Luxor

Omnia tells her story over lunch with the RELO at the Winter Palace in Luxor.

The hardest type of struggle is to struggle against yourself, to struggle against being weak, cowardly and ordinary.

At first I used to be so ordinary, following the crowd. I didn’t want to do anything exciting. The slow pace of life was my favorite type of life. I was afraid to change, afraid of challenges and afraid of loss. But there was always a scream inside of me that woke up the hidden dream. I have always wanted to study abroad.

I heard about the Kennedy-Lugar YES exchange program to study abroad one high school year. I applied and I got rejected. That was the alarm that woke me up out of the ordinary boring life. I asked myself a question, “Will I really leave my dream behind?” The answer came strong and clear from deep down in me: “NEVER!”

At that time I started to realize that there are a lot of things I needed to work on to improve my personality. I started by joining Resala Charity. Soon I became one of the main people on the advertising team. At this time also I heard about the Access program. I felt that this was the chance that was going to change my entire life. I applied and luckily I got selected. From there I started to feel that I was on the right track, and the hope started to sparkle again in front of my eyes.

During my participation in the Access program, I felt the change, not only in the language which was one of my dreams — to master English and be able to talk and understand native speakers — but also my personality. Access improved a lot of skills inside of me such as team work, presentation skills and getting out of my shyness zone. I was also exposed to some American culture events and aspects. Access has really built my personality.

Now I felt ready enough to apply again to the YES program. I felt ready to go and discover a new culture and life style. Once more I was lucky to get accepted, and I traveled to the USA. I was hosted in Albuquerque, NM. I was developing and improving from the orientation and the process that we went through to be prepared for such an experience, working in a team and applying what I have learned in Access class and camp. All the sessions that we took in the orientation were the key to open our minds to what we were going to experience.

My year in the USA was the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget anything, even the little things. I had a wonderful host family that really proved to me that home does not have to where your biological family is, but where your heart relates. Until today we talk and feel that we are family. Simply, they were not a family for a year; they were a family for life.

One of the unforgettable experiences that I had during my program in America is the Better Understanding for Better World conference. It was a conference in Baltimore, Maryland for 3 days. There were around 95 exchange students from 35 different countries. You can imagine how amazing it was to meet all these different people from different cultures and different religions. It just showed me how different but the same we are. We are different in cultures but we are all humans seeking peace and happiness. This conference specifically was a huge turning point in my life. It opened my mind and my eyes to how humanity is bigger than just a word. A lot of my perspectives have changed about the American culture and people. I discovered what the American people really were. I dug deep inside the American culture and experienced the different events. I even got over my fear of a lot of things such as cats and dogs. I used to be terrified of them but this fear didn’t stay for long. My host family has a dog and two cats. Now I love them.

When I returned to Egypt, I was a completely different person, more mature. My look to everything has changed. I look at everything as an opportunity. I became a self-confident person. I became independent. I also gave English courses for the first time in my life to two groups of students. One group was around 18 years old and the other group was around 20 to 26 years old.

I was 18 years old at that time. I had my senior year in high school in Egypt which was the scariest thing in every Egyptian’s life. Whenever I feel down and stressed, I remember that I CAN. I did achieve a dream that was almost impossible to me. I got through hard times. I passed this year with another great achievement: I got a really high score and I joined medical school as I have always dreamed of.

But that was not the only dream I had. I participated in the TESOL training that was held for Access alumni, and that opened a new way for me to go: through teaching English. Now I’m a teacher assistant in an E-era Access class.

My dreams has no limits, each dream I dreamt of and I achieved made me fly even more and more, gave me confidence that I can be the change I want to see in the world.