After winning the British Council’s HESPAL scholarship for Palestinian candidates, Dima Akel experienced a rare moment of reward and recognition for her academic achievements as a Palestinian.
It was one of those days: packed with classes and seminars discussing all things human resources, from organisational decision making to theories of organisations.
It was early evening and I had to rush to attend LSE’s Reception for Scholarship Holders at the Old Building on Houghton Street. It was a room full of so many unfamiliar faces and languages. It was almost as if the entire world was on one floor surrounded by walls and windows.
At the entrance of the Senior Dining Room, a long and international queue was forming. I recall hearing perhaps five different languages all at once. Introductions were halted; a moment of silence was signalled. A warm welcome united the scholars with smiles. Julia Black, Pro Director for Research at LSE, emphasised the need to acknowledge achievement. She began by proudly listing the scholarships that provided us with the opportunity to be standing in front of her that night.
First, the Chevening scholars were given the attention and were asked to raise their hands so they can be identified among the crowd. A forest of arms rose into the air.
Next, Julia called on those holding the HESPAL Scholarship (Higher Education Scholarship for Palestinians). Funded by the British Council, the HESPAL aims to strengthen the ties between Palestinian and British universities, offering candidates in the occupied Palestinian territories a chance to gain a truly international education.
‘HESPAL scholarship students, could you please raise your hands?’ Professor Black requested.
Two solitary hands were raised in the crowd: my colleague Madj’s, and my own.
‘Could everyone just take a moment to acknowledge that these scholars are from Palestine and we are privileged to have them here with us today?’ Professor Black told the crowd.
The unfamiliar scholars suddenly turn their heads toward me 180 degrees, seeing me for the first time. They offer me friendly nods and smiles as a sign of achievement acknowledgment.
I was carried away by disbelief and simple gratitude. It truly felt like that moment allowed my presence in the world to create history. I was fighting the tears, but they refused to be held back. To me, that moment was magic, a dream; a desire, a longing and a thirst that was deeply satisfied. The world knew who I was without me even speaking.
What makes this moment even better is that the world knew me through my thirst of education and desire to change the reality. In that moment my mind replayed my life story like a movie: scene by scene, person by person. The only two people on whose images my movie paused on was that of my parents. This scholar being celebrated, hugging the world with gratitude, was their daughter.
So, I would like to seize this opportunity and thank them for their enlightening support.
My mental movie culminated in a smile from the veins of my heart and a tear of gratitude surfing my face. The list went on as I gathered myself again to clap for the remaining scholars and acknowledge their powerful presence as well. As the evening drew to a close, I spotted Professor Black and raced over to thank her for her support, her kind words and to express my admiration.
Julia’s parting words fitted the occasion: she emphasised the need to explore, study hard, and be a positive active member of my society.
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