Since I was a teenager, I was always impressed by the above-mentioned opening statement of the United States Declaration of Independence. However, as a Middle Easterner, I was always perplexed whether this statement is applicable to all human beings or not. Growing up in a couple of Middle Eastern countries, where favoritism and nepotism are everywhere, and where people ARE NOT equal at all, I always questioned whether “all men” were indeed “equal.” Witnessing privileged people getting all of the opportunities with minimum effort, meanwhile, disadvantaged people are desperate to achieve their objectives regardless of the efforts that they may make, I was always confident that it is a matter of chance, not at all a matter of effort, and that only the lucky privileged people will have their dreams realized.
When I first started the program of Social & Applied Economics, I realized that it was a writing-intensive one. Papers are submitted on a weekly basis, the amount of extra reading is humongous, and for each course we have two textbooks and another four books assigned as extra readings. With my Middle Eastern “baggage”, I did not dream, even in my wildest dreams, to outperform the English native speakers. I was fully aware that no matter how hard I tried, I was not going to outperform any of them.
Despite being the only international student in the program, among all the students I was selected by the faculty members to be awarded the Economics Department’s 2013 Outstanding Student award. When I received the email to inform me that it was going to be awarded to me, I was positive that I could not be the one, and that it must have been sent to me by mistake, but it turned out that I am the one, and that my effort was appreciated. Obviously, determination is eventually awarded, and “all men” could be “equal “. For me, it is no longer a matter of chance at all; it is indeed a matter of effort. It is indeed that I need to “be the change” that I “want to see in the world”(Mahatma Ghandi).
Shlair Al-Zanganee is an Iraqi Fulbright grantee pursuing her M.S. in Social and Applied Economics at Wright State University.