A happy return to the land of snow and hot yoga

- August 26, 2016

Returning Dal student Abdul Alkahmees. (Nick Pearce photo)
Returning Dal student Abdul Alkahmees. (Nick Pearce photo)

Abdulrahman Alkahmees (BSc ’10, DDS ’14) walks into the room with a Tim Hortons double-double in his hand and a big smile on his face. After two years of working as a dentist in Kuwait, he has returned to Halifax and Dalhousie to study for a graduate degree in periodontics. And he couldn’t be happier.

Like many Kuwaiti students at Dalhousie, Abdul arrived in Halifax fresh out of high school to study for an undergraduate degree, followed by — if all entry requirements were met — a qualification from one of Dal’s professional schools. “I was 18 and had never left Kuwait before,” he says. “It was September and as the plane landed, I couldn’t believe how green everything was.”

Abdul credits his mother with fuelling the academic achievements of all of her six children — four brothers and two sisters. “She never finished high school, so for her, education is power. We now have two medical doctors, one veterinarian, one engineer, and one master’s student in the family. And one dentist.”

Abdul found a welcoming and supportive environment at Dal. “Everybody is nice and multiculturalism is embedded here. I felt comfortable enough to put myself out there and it really helped me in terms of making friends and improving my English. Being here changed everything for me and opened my mind to new ideas.”

It also opened his mind to winter and hot yoga – both of which he loves. After he graduated with his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2014, Abdul headed home to Kuwait to work, returning to Nova Scotia every holiday to reconnect with his close circle of Dal friends and the Halifax he had come to love.

Boosting his confidence

In Kuwait, Abdul pursued a one-year residency that enabled him to rotate through several public speciality clinics. Not only was it great hands-on experience, it also turned his thoughts to further studies. “It was a big boost to my confidence to be thrown right into the work and just be able to do it,” says Abdul. “It made me realize how well trained I was here at Dal.  The specialists I worked with in Kuwait were impressed with what I could do and encouraged me to specialize.”

Abdul applied to the four English–speaking Canadian dentistry schools that offer graduate periodontics programs. “I had other offers and interviews,” he says, “but as soon as I knew I had a place at Dal, I stopped looking at other universities.”

He also appreciates the help he received with the somewhat daunting amount of paperwork involved in returning to Canada. “Both faculty and staff responded to emails super fast and helped me to get the process started. I honestly don’t think I would have received the same treatment at another school.”

Abdul is one of three students embarking on the three-year graduate periodontics program at Dal. For him, the appeal of the program is that it covers a lot of things he wants to do, including restorations and small surgeries. “I like the idea that I could go into a more rural community and be equipped to perform many tasks,” he says.

Until classes begin in early September, Abdul is content to explore Nova Scotia, doing some of the things he was too busy to do as a student and spend time with friends.

“I’m so happy to be here now and doing what I love.”


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