Family, studying and missing Kuwait
The first time we met Zamzam, she was running a Kuwait Society stall promoting friendship between Scotland and Kuwait. Her traditional black abaya dress and headpiece shimmered with intricate gold embroidery, a striking and distinctive sight amongst the more usual student fashions. Zamzam chatted away to curious students but when she first arrived in Scotland it wasn’t so easy.
“I had left my home and my family behind in Kuwait,” explained Zamzam. “I was homesick, missing my children and everything was different to me. It was overwhelming so I went to Student Services Support and they really helped me. They were so supportive and friendly.
Joining the International Society
Student Services encouraged Zamzam to join the University’s International Society where she could meet students from all over the world and share similar experiences. The society’s regular activities and meetings helped her overcome her struggles with her mental health, and along with support from the University, she started enjoying her new life in Scotland.
Getting involved with the International Society didn’t stop there. “I decided to set-up a Kuwait Society. There are not many of us from Kuwait here in Stirling but we’re proud of where we come from and we wanted to promote our country and our culture to Scotland.”
Discovering Scotland's Muslim communities
Zamzam was keen to study in Scotland and improve her English. “I was attracted by the romance of Scotland’s history and culture. Britain of course also has a reputation for a sophisticated education.”
Even so, Zamzam was nervous about coming to Scotland. “I thought Scottish people would not be used to Muslims and I was worried about discrimination. I was wrong of course”, she laughs, slightly embarrassed as she looks back. “I couldn’t believe it when I discovered there were Scottish Muslim communities who had been living here for ages.”
She was delighted to discover a family-friendly Islamic centre and mosque in Stirling, halal food on the campus and in nearby restaurants, and a prayer room. She could also enjoy more Scottish-Muslim culture and shopping in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“I would say to any international student that Scotland is so friendly, Stirling is very safe and everyone is treated as an equal.”
Studying at Stirling and the next step
She says studying at Stirling has been an “amazing experience. The tutors are so knowledgeable and ready to help you out. They inspire you in your studies and look out for international students who may be struggling.”
Zamzam’s next challenge is to use her new skills and experiences in her career back home in Kuwait.
“It was hard being separated from my family. They had to make sacrifices as well. But education is so important and I was determined to do this for us. The sacrifice and hard work will make a difference. What I leant at Stirling is really going to help my career in digital media.”
Zamzam has helped the University’s international team develop a guide for international Muslim students coming to study in Stirling. “I know how lucky I was to have this wonderful experience studying in another culture. I hope this guide will encourage and help future Muslim students to come to Scotland and be part of the Stirling community.”