The road of persistence: a Palestinian’s journey
By Nimate Rebhi Asalie
“Where there is a will there is a way.”
Dina Kukali is not the run of the mill ordinary girl she is greater than that.
Her story is one that is worth telling. Therefore I sat down with the 22 years old and captured every little detail about her life from A-Z, starting with her not so easy childhood and adolescence, passing by her journey as a B.A student studying abroad to her futuristic plans.
Dina was born in a small town near Bethlehem called Bait Sahour.
The Sahourian girl’s childhood was restless and uneasy due to the fact she was actually born and raised in an environment filled with occupation and war, which of course had a certain impact on her.
Attending school as a child was not always an option since the curfew was imposed on the locals every now and then especially during the early 2000s.
But surviving was inevitable during those hard times, therefore, she had to adapt to that difficult situation and adjust to whatever came her way.
Nevertheless, family was her safe haven — always boosting and supporting with every tiny little detail.
Her mother was always present in her life guiding her and helping her.
Since her mother studied in Germany she planted and carved the love of the language and culture in her heart and made the brave girl smitten with the culture — although the young lady had always been passionate about languages.
However, she didn’t choose the literature or humanitarian majors because of the stigma which stated that students of the said majors were not as intellectual as the science major students’ academic wise.
Growing up in the occupation
Throughout the progressing Israeli occupation, crossfires would always take place between native Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
Tanks would be parked near her house as well as having soldiers everywhere alongside the demanding curfew.
During the early 2000s, the number of Israeli settlements increased to about 414.119 all over the Palestinian lands.
Those factors stood in her way as a little girl who only wanted to be a child without the burdens of war.
An academic achievement
Regardless of the hardships and obstacles, the raven haired girl studied hard earning herself multiple academic scholarships and merits – representing her country, school, and above all her case as a Palestinian girl defending her right to live and study in peace; pointing out the injustice that the people of Palestine endure in their everyday lives.
To avoid unnecessary gibberish Dina entered the scientific major, but her will to achieve the impossible pushed her to study hard and pass with good grades. Her dedication and love for German made her valedictorian, where she wrote a speech in German – earning an impressive spot in the minds of her teachers as well as peers.
Dina’s GPA was well enough to allow her to study what she has always wanted and what she was yearning for – the German language.
Unfortunately, studying German in Palestine was not an option because apparently there is no such major.
Dina could not study the language in depth and discover every tiny aspect of it like she had hoped for.
After her graduation ceremony and celebrations, it was time for the valedictorian to choose a path onto the path of university.
As previously mentioned, family bonds are strong therefore family members chipped in with ideas, suggestions, and advice about her much-anticipated decision.
After thinking back and forth and studying her options thoroughly, the soon-to-be college student landed on the decision of studying at the German Jordanian University.
She enrolled in the translation program – Arabic, English, and German – becoming one step closer towards achieving her dreams.
The Palestine native was excited for the upcoming chapter; embracing what’s to come.
As university was on the other side, Dina said her tearful goodbyes to loved ones and moved to Jordan.
Her father accompanied her and helped her with settling in. After ensuring that everything was set, he had to go back to Bait Sahour with a heavy heart, leaving the barely 18-year-old girl alone.
Culture shock was the title of her first few months here in Jordan.
Jordan and Palestine are close in distance but so different when it comes to culture and traditions – to the extent of causing confusion towards the Sahorian girl.
The GJU campus was in Madaba – a remote town near Amman where it mostly consists of historical sites.
Because she was new to the country, Dina needed something close to the main campus of the educational institute, hence, Dina’s house was located there.
Living in Madaba made life hard for the GJU student since she did not have much to do. The fact that Dina grew up in a town where everybody knew her and moved to a town where she barely knew anybody played an important factor in the discomfort that she was feeling.
The evident social classification in the Jordanian society didn’t go unnoticed by the freshman – it also added to her distress.
Clearly, the transition was not easy and the pressure was at its highest, having her cousin, however, made it a bit easier at first.
As the seasons flew by; Dina`s cousin got married and once again life was a bit hard on her. Nevertheless, Dina dusted herself up and continued with her journey.
The ninth of October 2012 marked the beginning of the school year in GJU, but it was also her birthday. Dina stated that “it was the hardest birthday ever.”
It was also her first birthday away from home, family, and friends – making her special day not so special.
Dina narrates a funny little story about her first day:
“I was walking through the campus and everyone was approaching me talking to me in an Iraqi accent because I have a long black hair,”
Her story earned endless laughs from me – apparently, long black hair is a characteristic of Iraqi girls.
After finally adapting and – and she is not a stranger to that – Dina was starting to make few friends here and there and in the midst of it all she met her now best friend Aram.
Soon enough Aram and Dina became inseparable. Aram was able to make Dina happier she literally was and still is a beacon in the dark for Dina.
Three years had passed and it was time for the much-anticipated abroad semester in Germany. This semester marks the most exciting and refreshing chapter in her life so far.
Dina fell in love with this experience. She was pouring her heart out – for her, it was more than an exchange semester.
As described by the brown-eyed girl she was becoming part of her society, integrating and melting into it. In no time the translation student, her classmates, and other exchange students became a family helping each other and taking care of one another.
This little family didn’t just live together they studied together, interned together, and also traveled together — making golden and unforgettable memories all around Europe.
Unfortunately, this beautiful experience had to come to an end. It was time to go back to Jordan.
On the day of her departure, it was once again her birthday. After living in Germany for about eight months, Dina once again had to say goodbye.
Her heart gets attached easily making goodbyes painful and tear filled — leaving a bigger scar each time.
In a blink of an eye, the GJU student became a senior preparing for her graduation project. Because she loves a challenge she decided to do her graduation project in German.
Writing such project in German was not easy; it was complicated and undeniably challenging. To top all that, she decided on a very challenging topic — translation of Palestinian proverbs.
After acing her graduation project and thesis, the dean of the school asked her about the reason why she chose a challenging subject.
Her answer was simple yet meaningful.
“Because when I finish and obtain my master degree from [GJU] and become a teacher in German schools I want to teach my German students about the Palestinian proverbs,”
Taken aback, the dean answered.
“Welcome to the master program,”
Four years later Dina was yet again a student at GJU but this time she was confident, happy and ready.
When asked why to pursue a master degree, she answered by saying “my passion was not fulfilled yet.”
Her new classmates were from different Arabic countries. Although they are all Arabs, they don’t understand each other – due to different dialects and accents.
They were all brought together by a love for German rather than ethnicity.
Dina has big plans for herself. She is determined on teaching in German schools or working for the DAAD institute in Jerusalem.
“I can now say that Jordan is not only a place that I have studied in, Jordan is that new home, where I have achieved my goals and where I felt independent,” she said.
“When I first came here, I was 18 and in exactly two years I will be leaving Jordan being 25 years old with two degrees, friends forever, and endless memories – including bittersweet moments, yet I am thankful beyond belief.”
The story of Dina is an inspirational one that empowers women and motivates them towards achieving their goals no matter what the obstacles are.
Dina Kukali is a graduate and master student from the German Jordanian University. She is currently taking her master in German language and translation, aiming to be a German teacher in the future. The Palestinian has always had a love for the German culture and language, thanks to the influence of her mother. She looks to spread her Palestinian culture to the outside world through the German language.