December 28, 2014, Cairo – Walaa Mahmoud, a student from a small village outside of Esna, Luxor in Upper Egypt, has become the first recipient of the Shokry Diab Public School Scholarship at The American University in Cairo (AUC). Thankful for her experience at AUC, Farah Diab and her father Shokry wanted to provide a female student from a low-income family outside of Cairo with the same learning opportunities she had at AUC. Diab explained that she and her father are both inspired by the saying, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family (nation),” attributed to Ghanaian scholar Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875 - 1927). They believe that there are more opportunities for women in Cairo if they are given the right chance to excel and prosper. Mahmoud has recently met for the first time her mentor Farah Diab ’14, who provided her with this life-changing opportunity to come to AUC.Following in her father’s footsteps, Diab, a psychology graduate, is currently enrolled in life coaching courses for individuals and organizations in Dubai, and is looking forward to mentoring Mahmoud during her studies at AUC.
Mahmoud has traveled all around Egypt but never outside the country. She thought the culture shock of joining AUC would be bigger than it actually was, but since she enjoys watching American movies and documentaries, and reading English-language books, she felt comfortable once she got here. She joked, however, that she did have a similar experience from a scene in the Egyptian movie A Student from Upper Egypt at AUC.
Mahmoud applied to many universities and had resigned herself to having to go to Aswan University in case she didn’t receive any financial aid. “When I found out I got into AUC, I couldn’t stop crying for the following 24 hours,” she recalled.
Mahmoud is currently undeclared and is excited to take many different courses to figure out what she likes. “I am looking forward to meeting people who come from all around the world, but I am concerned that I may have a hard time maintaining my identity,” Mahmoud expressed anxiously. Diab responded to Mahmoud’s concern, saying, “The most important thing is that you are already aware of these feelings. Have confidence in yourself and try new things. You already know who you are and will continue to be true to yourself.”
Diab has also advised Mahmoud to join as many clubs as possible to get out of her comfort zone and to develop her social and communication skills. “I have met people who participated in clubs and those who didn’t, and it makes all the difference in the world,” said Diab. “People in clubs are all very passionate. You will make connections for life and you will meet completely different kinds of people.” Mahmoud is thinking of joining AIESEC so she can get the chance to travel and connect with people from different backgrounds and mindsets.
Diab graduated from Modern English School in Cairo and attended AUC with many of her high school friends. She is aware that Mahmoud is making a big change, and attending AUC on this scholarship is going to be a life-changing experience for her.