Tuesday, 13 March 2012, 08:44 GMT
UKHian and proud

Sazan M. Mandalawi

The Kurdish Gobe
By Sazan M. Mandalawi

If leaders in Kurdistan give UKH the chance, it can prosper to be a leading university

We began this class trip to London almost an hour and a half ago, something we have all been looking forward to for a while. Coming from Kurdistan, and typical of me, I think I looked forward to the journey more than the destination itself.

However, little did I know the bus was going to be as quiet as it is. Not a single sound. Everyone, including the professor, is either reading or listening to music on their headphones. Others are social networking on their little gadgets.

I look outside and wonder where all the halparke (dancing) is. Where are the never-ending jokes? Where is the smell of the large pots of dolma and bryani? I try to imagine Rahma's Kirkuki Yapragh and Aryan's extra-large lunch box filled with her famous homemade tabbouleh.

I remember back in university days, only the dull -- and boring -- people would sit at the front of the bus. The fun, vibrant and the loud always took the long row of seats at the back, not that they were ever sitting there. As I write this, I remember exactly who those students were who took the back seats. Trust me; even if you sat next to the driver at the front you would hear them.

For a single second, I stand up and look to the back of the bus I am in. The back third of the bus is empty. Unlike our little bus at the University of Kurdistan-Hawler, this one is fancy, with curtains, seatbelts and even a toilet and a sink. However, the UKH one had a sticker at the back that read: Follow me to success.

As I get a glimpse of the bathroom, I cannot help but laugh as I remember some of the UKH picnics. On the first ever trip, I recall a few of the guys would frankly admit to the bus driver they need to visit "mali pash" soon I realized what that meant. Meanwhile, I can picture Nawa in my head, she was always in the most colorful Jli Kurdi; her wide smile would accompany the tapla (which was similar to the Djembe drum) in her hand.

If I told anyone, they might not believe me, but in Kurdistan I went to the best university anyone would wish to attend. I always dreamed of Harvard and Oxford; today, I feel like I'm a graduate of the Harvard or Oxford of Kurdistan.

Still, in these thoughts, I reach to my phone and write a few quick emails; the girls in Kurdistan are even quicker in their replies. A few days ago, they were busy with the student union elections, had the major Raparin celebration, and were preparing for International Women's Day. They won't rest; as soon as that is over they will begin organizing the commemoration of Halabja and then their annual Newroz picnic.

My memories of UKH do not just stop at picnics and celebrations, but also exams, deadlines and times of frustration and anger. The collection of signatures to replace the cafeteria management, the complaining about class times, and the moments of tears (in fact, crying) when results were not pleasing.

We resented some of the professors, at times, for being tough, but now studying in the UK, in a proper Western education system, I do not feel disadvantaged among other students, while many of my Kurdish colleagues here do feel great disadvantages when trying to adapt to an entirely different system. Simple, because I'm a UKHian.

If leaders in Kurdistan give UKH the chance, it can prosper to be a leading university in not only Kurdistan, but in Iraq and beyond. If only local elites realized the strength of UKH graduates and their capabilities, and then gave them postgraduate and job opportunities, then Kurdistan's future would be in safe hands.