The University of Findlay is taking the month of March 2018 to recognize four students with disabilities. This is the second of four articles being presented to showcase their commitment, resiliency, unique personalities, optimism and hopes for the future.
When Huda Tahr Alkhalefha, senior nuclear medicine major, was a little girl in Saudi Arabia, her grandmother told her that she had something special. It seems that every good grandmother says something similar to their grandchildren, but, in Huda’s case, it was more than just what every grandma says. Huda’s grandmother stressed that she has something special inside her. Something that allows her to sense and feel things that others may not be able to. Something that creates in her, as well, the desire toward compassion and recognizing the needs of others. This kindness and compassion is her passion in life and something that drives her to succeed. “I want to be something special,” she said. “I want to better the world for everyone.”
Along with this inward desire to do good and be successful, however, comes the individual academic stress that comes with it. In Huda’s case, her anxiety disorder is often overwhelming, leading not only to mental strife, but, in many cases, to physical symptoms, as well.
According to a recent Collegiate Mental Health report, 45 percent of college students report some kind stress to their counseling centers. There are different levels of stress, and different causes for each and some can be extremely detrimental to college life. Huda, married to her husband for thirty years, is a non-traditional student in many ways: she’s international, she’s older and she’s married with four children. With so many different roles to play and responsibilities to take on, it isn’t a large wonder that she is, at times, overtaken by stress, particularly when it comes to her academic journey.
Huda went to nursing school in her home country, and had, in fact, had a successful career as a nurse there for about seven years. She wanted something more, though, and because her grades had been so good in Saudi Arabia, she was awarded a scholarship to pursue a degree, and ended up coming to UF. Having lived for a time in Chicago when she first arrived in the U.S., she admits that the type of big-city life she found there was a bit too much. “I really like Findlay and the University a lot,” she offered. “Partly because it’s quiet and easy to live here.”
Huda has a husband to whom she’s been married for 30 years, and four kids—three boys and a girl. The older boys are 22-year-old twins; the middle is 19; and the only girl, the youngest, is 14. And, other than her husband, a geological engineer who is in Saudi Arabia working and tending to his ill mother, the family is all together. In the case of the three boys and Huda, “all together” includes school, as well. She and her three sons attend UF together, all studying nuclear medicine. “We have always studied together,” she said. “I had my boys when I was very young and so I could remember what they were studying in school when they got there. We studied together in middle school, high school and now university.” She also helps her daughter, who attends Findlay High School, and who also plans to attend UF if the family is still here when the time comes.
Huda said that her stress is mostly related to academics, but also comes from feeling alone with her husband being in their home country. According to her, it’s “house, family and school,” and, the first two create joy exclusively. Academics, however, cause her strife, partly because of the language barrier, but mostly, she said, because she is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. “If an exam is worth 32 points and I get 30, I’m not happy,” she claimed. When I was in my home country, I was normal. I always got 100 percent. Here, I study and study, but I don’t always get a perfect score.” Sometimes, she adds, depending on the professor, it takes her up to a month to fully catch on to his or her speaking nuances, and that only adds to the strife. “I even get bad stomach pain the night before an exam,” she confessed.
But, with the help of the Office of Disability Services, she manages her anxiety, and does the best she can. “I love it there. They are very helpful, especially the testing center,” she said. It means so much to her that one of her goals is to open something similar back in her country.
When asked where she sees herself in the future, her first answer is, true to her character, compassion-based. “I see myself helping people,” she said. “I wish to get a master’s degree, a doctorate degree, and then make something special for the world. I love all creatures. Humans, animals, everything. I just want to complete my studies, help people and have no stress.”