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Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 1 Samia Mishriki Williams November 11, 2011 Gainesville, Florida Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Alhadi : Thank you, Mrs. Samia Mishriki Williams for being with us today. We are very happy to have you this morning. My name is Esam Alhadi. I am a lecturer here at the have documentation for the Arabs who reside here in Florida. To day is Friday November 11, 2011, and it is now 10:45 AM. Thank you one more time for being with us. I want to start by asking you to state some of your basic personal information such as your place of birth and your early stages of education in Egypt. Sa mia Williams: I was born in Cairo in 1954. I had all my elementary, middle, and high school education in Cairo. I joined the college of medicine at Ain Shams University. I feel that my years of study are tied to my later decision of coming to America. that children there go to private schools. I had the opportunity to go to a private school took this name because some of its founders were American teachers. My English language teacher in the elementary school was an American lady. I still remember her. This exposed me to the American accent since I was a young girl. After finishing my study, I worked in the medical profession for five years in C airo. I then signed an employment contract to work in Saudi Arabia with an American company there. This has put me in touch with something American for the second time in my life. I went and worked there as a doctor.
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 2 The entire administrative body was A merican, and many of the doctors who were working there were also American. This gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a lot of American traditions and also their celebrations. My first two months there coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday. They invited me and told me about the pecan pie. This was the first step in my life to know about the American living style and culture. Alhadi: When did you come to America? Samia Williams: In 1999. I have been here for about twelve years. Alhadi: Did you come to Florida directly? Samia Williams: Yes. The reason is that the man that I knew and who later became my husband is American and he is from Florida. I came to know him when we were both working for the same company in Saudi Arabia. When w e were getting to know each other, he told me that if we ended up married to each other, he will go back and settle in the area of Gainesville in Florida where his family lives. I told him this will be a big step that I need to think about very thoroughly We, eventually, came and settled here in Gainesville Florida. Alhadi: We will come back to your experience and life in America, but I want to go back to your period in Cairo. When did you graduate from the college of medicine at Ain Shams University? Samia Williams: In 1979. Alhadi: And you worked for five years in Cairo? Samia Williams: True.
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 3 Alhadi: Would you please tell us about your work experience in Cairo and what hospital did you work for? ica in cardiology and blood vessels, I worked in two places. I worked for the government, because at that time everyone who graduated had the opportunity to work for the government. I worked for a health insurance hospital. In Cairo, there are three typ es of hospitals that medical graduates had the opportunity to work for. One of these was the health insurance hospitals which are ranked in the middle. Another one was the government hospitals and these are at a lower level. The top categories were the private hospitals. What made the difference between these three categories was the equipment, facilities, and financial provisions such as salaries. My first job after I graduated was in a health insurance hospital. This is what the government wanted m e to do. I had no say in this employment. It was a good job, but my desire was to find a place with better equipment so as to learn more and to develop my skills. I searched for another place. I applied to a private hospital called Al Salaam Hospital, in a Cairo suburb called Al Muhandiseen. They gave me a job. I used to work the morning shift in the government hospital and the afternoon and night shifts at my other work place. The private hospital that I was working for was very well equipped. The doctors who worked there were all professors at the Cairo University hospital of Al Qasr Al Aini. This was a great opportunity for me and I learned a great deal. It helped me in my professional life to come. Alhadi: You mentioned earlier that you got a
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 4 Samia Williams: I meant to say from Ain Shams University in Cairo. I graduated in 1979, two years to finish it. Alhadi: This was yo ur professional experience in Egypt. Would you please tell us about your professional experience in Saudi Arabia? Samia Williams: In Saudi Arabia, I worked in the out patient clinic. They were looking for a general practitioner to cover all fields of m edicine. I did internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and others. This is what general medicine is about. I worked in the out patient clinic for one year and a half. Then, they transferred me to the emergency medicine department. Th is step came after four doctors who used to work for the emergency department had left. I worked in the emergency medicine department for six years and then went back to the out patient clinic for another five years. My total period there was eleven year s. Alhadi: Excellent. This is an excellent experience in Saudi Arabia and another earlier one in Cairo. After coming to America, did you start working for Santa Fe College right away? Samia Williams: No. My intention after coming here was to continue in my same profession. Medical practice was not just a profession for me. It was my true first love. Being a doctor was a very important endeavor in my life. I loved it so much. To continue working in the same profession after my coming here, I was r equired to take three examinations to prove that my knowledge in the field is equivalent to what graduates of American medical schools would have. I passed the tests, and after that I was required to apply to do the residency. This residency application is usually done at a nationwide
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 5 level. Many American and non American doctors apply. I had no luck of getting any position in my first year. applied for the second time, but at the same time I decided to start looking for something else to study. I searched and found that Santa Fe Community College here in Gainesville had two year certificate programs. I found that their program of cardiovascular technology matched my profe ssional background. I thought of making use of my professional background, and studying this program was certainly better than sitting at home doing nothing. It would also help me to revive what I studied before. I joined Santa Fe College and finished t he two year study program including a six week internship. I prepared my CV [ curriculum vitae ] and started applying again. One of the teachers at Santa Fe College told me about an opening for a teaching position at the same college. I felt very reluctant to apply for a teaching position. This is despite the fact that when I was still doing my study program at Santa Fe, I volunteered to help my colleagues who were trailing behind in their studies. I formed a study group where I used to give help to a num ber of students, and review with them to help them elevate their understanding of the course topics. My teachers knew I was doing this study group activity. I told my husband about this position and also told him about my fear to fail in doing well in te aching. My professional experience after graduation had been exclusively in the medical field. He advised me to apply, and also advised me to go and talk to my teachers in the college about it. I went and met with three of my four teachers at Santa Fe College. I had a one on one meeting with each one of them. I asked them their opinion about my applying for
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 6 this teaching position. Their answers were all the same. They told me not to hesitate about applying. I told them that I would need a reference letter and they agreed to write letters for me. They told me that they heard about my teaching skills from the students that I used to help. They told me that they knew I was gifted in making the course material very simple and clear. They also heard a bout my unlimited patience and also that I never get annoyed when asked to elaborate on the same subject that I may have explained before. They all stressed their confidence that I will make a great teacher and insisted that I should apply right away. I decided to give it a try. I said to myself that I number of applicants for this position. This is because the position is a very good one and the school is also goo d. They called me for an interview and soon offered me the position. I accepted and started working for Santa Fe College. Alhadi: When did you start working for Santa Fe College? Samia Williams: In 2003. It is now the beginning of my ninth year workin g there. Alhadi: How did you find this shift from one profession to another? Samia Williams: My first year was very hard. That was the year I had to do all the preparation for teaching new courses. I also had to prepare for the lecturing and the lab w ork. I had to be ready for all the questions the students would be asking. The following year was much better. I made some changes and additions to my syllabi and exams. After that, I truly began to enjoy the teaching profession, although it is tiresom e and requires a lot of standing, but nevertheless enjoyable. I am very happy with it. I can truly say I now love teaching and love my students. Alhadi: What do you teach?
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 7 Samia Williams: I teach health related courses. I teach physiology, anatomy, an d microbiology. These are basic courses that anyone who wants to go into the medical or health fields should study. Alhadi: Now, you are apparently settled here in Gainesville, but I need to know if you still have a connection with Cairo and with the res t of your family back in Cairo and in Egypt. Samia Williams: After we came here, my connection with Cairo was very strong because I had an elderly mother there. My father died long ago. I have a brother and a sister who were living with my mother. I us ed to go there every summer to visit and see them and the rest of my relatives, because it was hard for my elderly mother to come and visit me here. still maintaining a s trong connection with the rest of my family through phone calls and the computer. I always talk to my sister and brother and check on their news, especially having in mind the current events in Cairo. Alhadi: How about your connection with the Egyptians and Arabs in general here in Gainesville? Are you in touch with them? them here. I met with one or two of them and they became our friends. Other than that, I Alhadi: I am going to ask you a question and you may chose not to answer it if you feel you know of many Arab men married to American women, but I am not aware of many cases of Arab women married to American men. Your case is one of these unusual experiences. Do you mind to share some thoughts about this unusual experience?
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 8 Samia Williams: I agree it is a different experience. However, what originally got me closer to my husband was his interest in Arabic language studies. This is not because of me, but because of his personal interest, curiosity, and prior knowledge of everything Arabic and Middle E astern such as the language and life and living traditions. He visited Egypt before I met him. This background made it easier for us to get attracted to each other. He was very open minded about the Arabic lifestyle. Alhadi: Did he visit Cairo before y ou got to know him? Samia Williams: He visited Cairo twice before we got married. After we got married, he always went to Cairo with me every time I went there to visit, and still does. The more he learns Arabic, the more he loves to practice talking wi th the people when he goes to Cairo. Alhadi: Very good. You know that marriage in the Arabic family is a decision that is not taken decision in regards to this matter? Samia Williams: This is very correct. Before I made my final decision to commit to this relationship, I checked with my mother. I was in Saudi Arabia at that time. I invited my mother to come and visit me there for a month without telling her about my true intentions behind this invitation. After she arrived, I told her I wanted her to meet him. I told her that he proposed to me and that my final decision depends on her approval or disapproval of this proposal. I arranged for her to sit with him many times during the month she spent with me in Saudi Arabia. Before her departure back to Egypt, I asked her what she thought. She told me to go ahead with the marriage plan. Alhadi: Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I want to move on t o my next question. It is about the university educational systems in America and Egypt. You
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 9 finished your university education in Egypt and had your M.A. there as well. Now you teach at one of the institutions of higher education here in America. What is the difference in studying and teaching at the college level in the two countries? Samia Williams: One area where you find a huge difference is the number of students in the classroom. Throughout my years of study in Cairo, there were always no less than 1,200 students in each lecture hall that I ever entered. When I came here, there were only 30 students. This is a huge difference for me. It was a very strange feeling for me to be in a classroom as a student and the instructor knows me by name. W hen I started teaching, it many things about their personal lives. This interaction between the teacher and the students is the biggest difference for me. Here, I see my students two or three times a week and I know them by name. This gives the teacher the opportunity to have a bigger o go home and digest and process that huge amount of information on his own. There is no personal daily interaction between the two. I never remember going to talk to one of my instructors in Cairo. This never happens unless there is an unusually pressi ng need or an emergency situation. This is a huge difference. Here, I feel that as a teacher, I will naturally leave an impression on my students, regardless if I want this to happen or not. Of course, I do my best to make this impression positive. I w ork to make this positive impression a tool to help me elevate their level of knowledge. I feel motivated to help them and to make them qualified to succeed and move on to another university or to find a job or become professional in any field they want. Here, the responsibility on the teacher is much bigger.
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 10 Alhadi: I am quite familiar with the comparison you are making and I know very well what you are talking about because I studied at the University of Cairo. I know that it is not unusual to find h undreds or thousands of students in one lecture hall. However, we are approaching the end of this interview, but I still want to know about your relationship with varied aspects of Arabic culture, such as if you still watch Arabic movies, listen to Arabic music or if you do any Arabic readings. Samia Williams: Unfortunately no. I became Americanized very swiftly. Even when I was in Egypt, I used to read in English more than I did in Arabic. This is probably because I went to a private school. It is tr ue that I used to read the newspapers when I was there. The rest of my literature readings were mostly in English. In Saudi Arabia, it was also the same. There was a big library in my work location with a huge number of English books. Reading mostly in English has been a habit of mine and I still do the same. I when I go to Cairo, I love to watch old movies. Alhadi: Does this mean that you are not following close ly what goes on Egypt these days? Samia Williams: I am following what is going on in Egypt. I do follow very closely everything Alhadi: Are you aware of the recent political changes there? Samia Williams: I am constantly following the news. This is the only thing that keeps me watching TV. Also, I get the news from my relatives when I talk to them. Alhadi: What do you think about what is going on in Egypt? Do you see any positive consequences of these chan ges?
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 11 Samia Williams: Sure. There will be positive consequences. However, I am hopeful that these changes will be for the better. There will be a lot of tiring work to do to reach a reasonable level of stability. This level of stability will be achiev ed through the joint work of all parties. I hope there will be security. I pray to Allah to make this possible. Alhadi: I want to go back to your life experiences. You said you lived in Saudi Arabia, but I want to know if you have been to any other Ar abic country. Samia Williams: I visited Yemen and Syria. Alhadi: Were these of personal or work nature? Samia Williams: I went to Yemen to do volunteer work as doctor for one month. After I came here, I planned to go back to Egypt for a visit. Some of my friends in Yemen told me that they had a doctor who was working in a clinic there and she had to leave for some personal reasons. They were looking for someone to take her place as a volunteer. I thought about it and figured that it will be a good idea to take my husband with me and go there. That is what I did. We stayed there for a month and we visited many places while we there. Alhadi: And what about your trip to Syria? Samia Williams: We went there as tourists. We had a great time and it w as a very beautiful place. Alhadi: Which are the non Arab countries you have been to? Samia Williams: I travelled to many European countries before I got married. I visited Britain many times. I have a brother who is married and living there. I also visited Scotland many times. I also went to Australia as a tourist. I visited Germany. I have an uncle who is married and settled there. I also visited Turkey, the Netherlands, and France.
Samia Mishriki Williams, Draft 2, Page 12 Alhadi: This is almost all over Europe! Thank you very much M rs. Samia. We are very pleased having you with us this morning. Thanks to your husband for being present with us while we were doing this interview. This has been a very wonderful interview and documentation. Thank you Samia Williams: You are welcome. [END OF INTERVIEW]