Habiba “Bibi” Soliman spent the majority of her life in Cairo, Egypt, but before her junior year of high school, she moved with her family to the United States. Her stepmother, a UT Martin alumnus, encouraged Soliman to check out UT Martin, and from the moment she began her research, attending UTM became her dream.
Life in Cairo was quite different from the life she discovered in the U.S. However, Soliman uses those contrasting experiences to enhance her opportunities to contribute to her career goals.
“Growing up in Egypt was completely different just because cultural traditions and values are much stricter than it is here. Religion there is very predominant, and that’s what we go by. As far as school and academics go, I was fortunate enough to be in an American school, which followed the American educational system,” Soliman said.
Even though she experienced an American education while in Egypt, Soliman still had to adjust to life in the U.S. “I entered American school when I was a freshman in high school and moved to the United States when I was junior. There was a culture shock. It took me a little bit to adjust, and I definitely found a way and learned how to take advantage of opportunities.”
Before Soliman attended UT Martin, she got her start at Nashville State Community College where she was able to get involved and develop a better understanding what she wanted to do in her future career.
“Community college demographics are very different. So ages vary and situations vary. In a community college, they try to be very active just so if there are traditional students there, they can actually experience the college experience. The difference that I have seen when I came to Martin was because it’s a university, no matter how small it is, it’s still a university and the majority are traditional students. It’s much busier and much more active,” Soliman said of her different higher education experiences.
While attending community college, Soliman became a peer advisor. Of her experience, she said, “I was really fortunate last summer to get a job at Nashville State Community College to work as a peer advisor. What we did was almost academic counseling but at a lower proficiency level just because we were students. But I realized that I have so much potential to give in that area.”
Soliman’s opportunity to speak with students about their college and career goals inspired her to pursue a degree in communications in order to one day become an academic advisor and admissions recruiter.
She said, “The one thing that really inspired me and made me realize that potential was back in Egypt being in college is more of a right rather than a privilege. And when I moved here, being in college is more of a privilege than it is a right just because you really have to work for it. And there are a lot of good students out there that I have met, and I know that they have so much potential in them. And they just need navigation, and I want to be that navigation.”
While Soliman continues to take her communications classes, she has also become involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America, Zeta Tau Alpha, and Soliman recently accepted a position to become resident assistant. Most of all, Soliman enjoys being a UT Martin student ambassador where she has been able to continue gaining experience that will prepare her for becoming an academic counselor.
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