Sushi and self-belief

Eman Alatbash likes new challenges. Leaving her family and everything she knew in Gaza to come to Canada was a first, as was getting on a plane. She also doesn’t like numbers, which is why she’s now studying accounting for three years.

“It was a challenge to myself,” says the 20-year-old, from her room at College Boreal in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. “I believe in myself and I’ll be able to do it. It’s been ok so far!”

Arriving in Canada, she also tried sushi for the first time.

Eman is interested in becoming a journalist after her studies.  Intelligence, sheer hard work and that innate self-belief got her an impressive 98.4% in her Tawjihi [general secondary] exams back in Gaza.  Those traits, she says, are what budding young women students in the Middle East should show on their application forms if they, too, would like to have funded scholarships for tertiary education from the Daughters for Life Foundation.

On the application form, she says, it’s important that the students “believe in themselves, show that they can do it, that they can try this experience. Life is too short, every experience is important,” she says, because it’s a chance for exposure to different cultures and people. Those experiences can be then taken back to the students’ home countries in the Middle East.

“I’m happy and grateful,” for this opportunity, says Eman.  “It’s something different, a new experience.  My love for my family fills my heart.  But it requires some sacrifice to get a satisfactory result.”

She and fellow Gaza student Sarah Abu Ramadan both have a room in an shared apartment with a college residential building.   They share a small kitchen and bathroom and there’s a large kitchen downstairs, she says, where she’s had the chance to meet women from many different countries.

Eman with other DFL scholar Sarah, Nancy and Tina; College Boreal Staff

Eman with other DFL scholar Sarah, Nancy and Tina; College Boreal Staff

Her advice to students thinking of applying for a DFL scholarship?  “I tell them that this is the most beneficial experience that you can do,” she says.  “Studying abroad gives you the chance to meet people, who have a different culture and customs. These experiences will be reflected in your attitude and behavior.  It will help with your ideas, and help you to be more open-minded.

“Gaza City is my home and I love it.  But the chance to be educated there, travel and get a job is not [always] available.  Being in Canada, yes, it’s safer here, but I worry about my family.  But I will be able to go back home with new ideas to help my country. Every stone added will help build a better home for our country. I can give back to them, in the same way as the opportunities that have been given to me.  I’ll be able to encourage them to travel and support them.”

After her Tawjihi exams, Eman studied English and French Literature at Al Alzhar University in Gaza for two years. Her French skills mean that she can now study at College Boreal, where in bilingual Canada, the language of instruction here is French.

Outside of her studies, Eman runs with fellow student Sarah, she also loves to do traditional Arabic dancing, and listen to, among others, Celine Dion.

“My Mum, she is a little sad,” says Eman, about seeing her daughter go to Canada. “But she believes in me and loves to see me happy.  I seek to make them proud of me and my success.”

For more info about Daughters for Life scholarship for 2016 academic year, please go to:, or email us at

Eman was talking to Annemarie Evans