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Yesterday, An-Najah students participated in a videoconference with students from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Recrear, an international non-governmental organization focused on helping youth around the world, implemented the session with 100+ students at the university. This was one session of a two weeks long training workshop, ‘RecrearApply!’.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for the community here.  Although, it’s a simple idea to connect students in each country, it’s never happened here before, or for the students in Canada,” said Komal Minhas, one of the Recrear organizers.

For forty-five minutes, the students from Canada asked questions about the barriers students in Palestine faced during the Intifada, how they persevered through those experiences and what life is like now as a student in Palestine.  Students from An-Najah were curious about how students at Carleton react to women in hijabs and how to effectively manage your time as a full-time student.

“An-Najah is very excited about this initiative.  This is the first of two sessions this week where our students in Nablus will connect with international students.  Today, we are going to hold a conference with students from New Orleans,” said Mohammad Dwaikat, professor at An-Najah and the main faculty coordinator of the RecrearApply! project.

The RecrearApply! workshop will end this Sunday with a global village at An-Najah University, all are welcome to attend.

So my colleagues had told me to expect the vast number of students, the enthusiasm, the wonderful hospitality and to be impressed and blown away by everything I see and hear. Well, they were right. Moreover, following in the foot steps of my dear friend and co worker Q.M will be no easy task but I always love a good challenge 🙂

All I can say is that it feels like being in a room that is thriving with potential. What they have to offer is beyond measure and yet they are still discovering this themselves. At first this is strange to me but after hearing some of them share their stories, why wouldn’t they think that way. Their world is so much more closed off than the one my colleagues and I live in. Yet amidst the struggles their is an immense amount of positive energy floating around. Good ideas going unnoticed and ready to be lifted off the ground. That is why we are here. We aren’t imparting ideas but rather the tools they need to empower their own ideas.

At least for myself, I’d like to leave this place knowing that these students feel that it is well within their reach to achieve great things. I’m thrilled an excited to catch up and get to know the students here as best I can in the little time available to us. If you’re a participant reading this, keep up the enthusiasm up! It’s wonderful and it’s always the healthy first step in learning to develop your capabilities.

K.W

I’ve had a great time instructing the sessions at Al-Najah. I really would do this for a living; and maybe someday I will. But for now, my regular life calls me to London, and that is where you will be able to find me from tonight.

I feel like I’ve had a largely positive impact and reception at the university. I don’t think that people were shy to ask me questions, even if they weren’t comfortable with the English language. It would have been great to stick around and develop my relationships with the students to an even greater extent. Alas, it was not to be.

However, the new addition to the team, K (yet another one). . . . is someone that all the students will instantly take to. Our flights miss each other by just 15 minutes and, in all probability, we’ll both be on the same tarmac in Tel-Aviv as her flight lands and mine prepares to take off.

As I mentioned to the team last night, when I joined Recrear at the Berlin Conference 5 months ago, I would never have imagined having a few drinks in Jerusalem after having successfully completed Part 1 of Recrear-Apply, with people who were only recently strangers to me.

This good fortune is owed in large part to K, and her insistence that I visit her in Berlin at this conference which, I will admit, I knew nothing about when I landed in Germany.

Although it goes without saying, I would like to ask, that if you are an Al-Najah student reading this then please extend to her, as you have to us, the warmest possible welcome.

K, if you are reading this, bonne chance! And, juste leblanc. 😀

QM

As I sit here in this relatively unremarkable hostel in the middle of the old city of Jerusalem, preparing to return to my regular life as a student in London, I’d like to take a moment to offer some circumspect opinions about my time at Al-Najah and the West Bank.

I think that there is a lot of exceptionally good work going on at the university, the resources and facilities available are of a very high standard, and in any developing country, that is normally the most difficult thing to acquire. Similarly, I was struck by the motivation, intelligence and good spiritedness of the students and the organizers.

However, on a personal and institutional level, I would suggest (in my humble opinion) that Al-Najah needs to reconsider the academia to extra-curricular balance. In my experience, university is not just about learning things in the classroom, it’s about getting involved in associations that champion what you are passionate about. I would love to see an increase in the proliferation of student interest groups.

Apart from student engagement, this would require some level of understanding from the university faculty. I don’t know exactly how this can be achieved, but I believe that Al-Najah will be much the richer for it.

QM

As the entire Al-Najah student body cries over Q.’s departure, the Recrear- Apply! team is heading to Jerusalem for a night. Tomorrow, there will be no Recrear workshops…but do not worry; we will be back on Tuesday morning for another day full of exciting sessions. Get ready to become a first class blogger! Starting from Tuesday we will also be available for one-to-one sessions. See you soon!

– GG

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Finally, a moment to sit and reflect on the importance of our work here in Nablus.

Life is grand here, in the purest sense of the word.  There is no talk of resistance, frustration, or retaliation; only progress.  The campus that has opened its doors wide to the Recrear team could actually be said to shadow the Universities we hail from.  Al-Najah is a golden beacon of white stone and marble in Palestine, leading the region to a strong position of education, communication and collaboration within their community.   With various public and private sponsorships; there are four campuses and over 20,000 students studying over 50 degree programs.   While we have been too busy planning and implementing our first days of workshops to receive a full campus tour, we managed to sneak in a quick walk around the Engineering Faculty (or facility as we call it) and we saw an amazing panoramic view from one of the student amphitheaters on the New Campus. (pictures in the feed)  Another highlight was the Media Center located across the amphitheater; still under construction was the production and filming rooms, but the 300,000 volume library was open(this is just one of the campus’ libraries) along with the multimillion dollar theater which, among other features, is able to translate four languages simultaneously into your own personal headphones during performances.  I’d also like to point out the student:computer ratio at Al-Najah is 4:1!!!

But enough about things, lets look at the fact that the 200-300 students that are participating in Recrear-Apply! are here on their holiday!  That’s right, two weeks with us and our powerpoints and various other presenters are working with the students on their time off of school.  Talk about motivation.  Based on the faces of the students and their feedback in sessions, I believe they can see how important the work we are doing is right now – and we are all loving the time spent together.

I want to take a quick moment to thank KM for working so hard over the past two days to launch this blog.  I would like to formally invite all of our followers (especially Al-Najah students and faculty)  to subscribe to this feed and also to comment as often as you would like.  This blog is not only for us to share with you what we are seeing, but as a way for you to ask us questions and introduce topics you would like to explore with us.  Want to know how we really feel about something?????   ASK!!!

Don’t forget – we are on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and our website!!!   Get inspired. Get connected. And lets CREATE!

-KP

So, today was the last day I’m going to be at Al-Najah with Recrear-Apply. I’ve had a fantastic time getting to know some of the students from this fine institution, all of whom have been excellent ambassadors for their community.

I had the most fun taking the session on Culture Shock, where the participants had intriguing views on the role of secularism, freedom of religion and the Islamic perspective. As these are all issues that I hold a strong personal and academic interest in, I hope that I imparted as much insight as I gained.

In addition, I found my TED-like session on The University of London and the Said Foundation was perhaps where I was best able to get my point across. My point being that: anyone at Al-Najah has the potential to get a place at a university or an internship somewhere out there in the wider world if they just believe in themselves and are willing to invest time in their futures from now.

Apart from the workshop, it has been an honor to get to work in the presence of luminaries such as my fellow presenters, Dr. Mohammed, Yazan and the team of magic-working volunteers. Thus, at this time, I would like to take this chance to express my deep gratitude to everyone I have had the good fortune to work with during my time here.

I hope to see you all again sometime in the future. And, I promise to blog again soon 😀

QM

Hey Everyone!

I just finished a session about interview skills for applying to jobs in North America and Europe and it was incredible! The level of involvement from the students is so impressive and the comprehension of the expectations employers have during job interviews was right on.

A big question that came up was, “what do I do if I feel too stressed during or before the interview”, my biggest piece of advice was to BREATHE!  The power of our breath is incredible, it can help calm our nerves and make still our mind.  Breathing can help make a very stressful situation bearable.  This is why I love meditation and focus on my breath during difficult situations.

During the session we had constant discussion and involvement from the group.  When discussing potential questions an employer may ask, we covered the topics of: strengths and weaknesses and overcoming obstacles. One student discussed a personal example of his commitment to his studies and his commitment to long-term goals.  He talked about how he continued to attend his school and to write exams during the Intifada when Israeli soldiers were intermittently firing at, or bombing areas of Nablus.  I found this example very powerful, and told the students that many employers in North America and Europe would appreciate such honest examples, and such real examples of perseverance and commitment.  I wanted to share this with all of you today.

At the end of the session I brought the discussion back to nervous energy.  I made all the students stand up and act like they were sneezing.  While ‘sneezing’ they would have to release all the air from their body and make a loud noise! Imagine 200 students doing this together… it was great! I love making people leave their comfort zone and I hope to do that more and more everyday!

Ana Oheboukoum (I love you all)

– KM