Dana Al Radhan, a third-year biology student hailing from Kuwait, lights up as she describes the cultural experiences of her time at Dal.
That enthusiasm is on full display in her video, “Canada: My Perspective,” which earned her top prize in the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s 2012 Photo and Video Contest. In just three minutes, she explains how coming to study in Canada has positively influenced her life, starting with a light-hearted look at two of her first adaptations to life at Dal: the transition to a scent-free environment and learning the classic Canadian habit of holding doors for strangers.
“Back home everything is scented,” she explains. “It really says something about how being considerate and aware of other people is part of the culture here.”
As for holding doors, it has become a habit that she takes back to Kuwait over the summer, usually to the confusion of other pedestrians. “It’s just not a thing people do back home. Here, it’s a part of how being friendly is infused into the culture.”
Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression…
The film then turns to the true source of Al Radhan’s enthusiasm for Canadian culture and studying at Dal: the ability to speak freely in all aspects of life.
“It was shocking at first how open people are here,” she recalls, having arrived alone in Halifax four years ago at age 16. “I got to listen to different perspectives and it allowed me to grow. I now say that I ‘grew up’ in Canada.”
That freedom has played out in a number of ways in her studies. For example, her experience in her second-year nature conservation course informed her choice to become vegetarian last winter after learning about North American meat production.
It’s also given her a keen interest in studying evolution — a topic she says would be unlikely to be taught in such detail in Kuwait — and her role as a women studying science. “You can trace the influence of women through science, even at times when they were socially oppressed. It makes you think about how the world works, ask questions and look for explanations.”
The ability to engage in an open marketplace of ideas has inspired Al Radhan to create positive change when she returns home to Kuwait. “I get so excited about these experiences because I love Kuwait so much. It is still a young country and all of the students that are going abroad and learning to think critically and question assumptions are going to help it evolve.”
She also hopes to continue to use film as a way to foster discourse. She is currently working on a short film called “The Echoes of the Deserted” which she hopes will help people look past the conflict to the humanitarian concerns of the conflict in the Gaza strip. Her team plans to begin filming as soon as funding is in place.
In September, Dana is planning to return to Kuwait to go into dentistry. You can learn more about “Canada: My Perspective” at the CBIE website.
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