FROM TEACHING ENGLISH LITERATURE at Baghdad University in Iraq to becoming a Ph.D. student at The University of Texas at Austin, Hind Hussein’s journey has been a global one. Hind, along with her husband and 5-year old son, arrived in Austin in January 2013 to get settled in before she begins her doctoral program in English Literature this Fall.
Here, Hind talks about why she chose to study in the U.S., what she loves most about Austin and the university campus, and how she plans to share her learning once she returns to Baghdad University.
What brought you to the US?
Studying in the United States has always been part of my family’s bigger plan. My husband and I postponed all other plans for two years while I waited to be admitted to a school in the U.S. He knew what this would mean to me as a scholar and as a person, so he was willing to sacrifice in order to help me realize this dream. This is also a culturally and socially rewarding experience for my young son and husband.
Why did you choose The University of Texas at Austin?
I was thrilled to be informed that the High Committee of Educational Development (HCED), a governmental board of scholars and scientists in Iraq, selected me for placement at UT and the university welcomed me. I was actually in a state of disbelief because I knew quite well the academic status of UT. I started googling Austin and knew right away this is where I wanted to spend the next five years of my life.
While waiting to begin your Ph.D. in Literature in the Fall of 2013, you’ve been taking English as a Second Language classes through the International Office. What have you enjoyed most about that experience?
I was really impressed by the program and its enthusiastic and caring teachers. It was really a bonus for me to be in the ESL before starting my Ph.D. My ESL classes taught me many new writing and communication skills. I also learned what’s expected in U.S. academic and social contexts, helping to make my transition smooth and natural. I also had the chance to meet friends from all over the world.
How have you and your family enjoyed summer in Austin?
Austin is really a good place to live. On the weekends, we usually go to the Central Market shopping center to enjoy the music, dancing, food, and of course, the pond, where my son likes to hang out. We also visit the parks scattered all over Austin. Ladybird Lake is another attraction we love to stop by whenever we have time — and Amy’s Ice Cream is my son’s favorite playground. In fact, I can go forever talking about all the good places we love to hang out as a family.
What has surprised you most about living in Austin and being on campus?
My husband and son have enjoyed the friendly attitude of people here, which I knew would be the case since I’ve been to the U.S. before. What really surprises me here is the relaxed nature of life. I thought that due to work and tight schedules people only went out on the weekends, but people here actually go out all the time!
I’m also surprised by the healthy food choices at Whole Foods and Central Market and the overall green living tradition in Austin. In addition, I was surprised by the global identity of all the restaurants here: Mexican, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Indian and more. There is a choice of cuisine for all food lovers. I can say that Austin is a small world in one great city, and I love it more and more each day and so does my family.
What do you plan to do after earning your Ph.D. in Literature?
My plan is to return to my professor position at Baghdad University and start a drama program in the College of Languages. We don’t have scholars that specialize in drama, so I’m hoping to recruit other HCED students to work with me on this project.
What do you feel a new drama program will do for the university, students or Iraq?
This program will be a totally new addition to the disciplines taught in my department — we have not had much exposure to contemporary drama, which I intend to specialize in. I think drama is the fullest expression of life and it is unfair for Iraqi students and universities to be deprived of the opportunity to be exposed to contemporary human experience as embodied in Drama.
I am grateful for the opportunity to build an international network of people during my time at UT. My family and I have felt so welcome here and it seems like over the years, the people of our two countries have come to appreciate each other’s values, social norms and religion more and more. I am so excited to see what the next few years will bring to me and my family, and look forward to creating new opportunities for creativity and cultural exchange with my students based on the working relationships and learning that I acquire here.
Interview & Photograph By Angie Pastorek