I remember that I suggested to a colleague of mine, whom I considered highly distinguished academically, to apply for a Ph.D. program at Harvard, but he scoffed at the idea, saying: “Harvard! You know the level of language that it requires! And the level of excellence required!”
I was amazed at the time, as my colleague had already judged himself a failure before he heard or read anything about the requirements, and he thought that he did not deserve the opportunity. I was even more surprised because my colleague had done his master’s degree studies in the United States and got a high rating, but it seems he still didn’t believe that he could!
Lack of Positive Self-Expression
As for the skill-related reason, it is associated with the lack and weakness of the skill of positive self-expression in our societies, as the common culture and methods of education do not help this.
In the phrasing class, the student learns to express everything outside, events, and situations. They also may write about their visit to the book fair or about the day they spent with their families at the park or by the sea, but they never learned to express themselves and reflect the thoughts, beliefs, feelings and fears that are on their minds. Therefore, they are often unable to reveal their ambitions, dreams, and future plans, as well as their fear of the comments from those around them if they dare to deviate from the traditional course towards imagination, which is the greatest thing that people possess.
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In addition, a common culture is widespread in our society that prevents children from mentioning their praiseworthy qualities or achievements because this is considered to be bragging and arrogance. While children need to learn humility, this may lead to them becoming overly modest in everything: their dreams, their self-confidence, and their choices. Then, the parents wonder why the child’s abilities declined after becoming a young adult! “He was a genius in his childhood,” they whisper sadly. Yes, he was so before his subconscious was poisoned with all these toxins.
At Harvard, I witnessed students who were more modest than many of the Arab students in terms of their scientific, social and economic levels, but their societies established in them that they are good, capable and worthy of the position they have reached, and they can mention their achievements in their university application letters with ease and without reprimanding others or accusing them of arrogance, haughtiness and snobbery.
Helping Students Understand Themselves
I think that it is time for more Arab students to learn this skill, and the evidence is that I personally learned it after reaching the age of 30 and after many failed attempts. Now, I teach it and review the files of students applying for scholarships and help them understand themselves and assess their skills before applying.