EGYPTIAN, ENTREPRENEUR, RESIDENT ASSISTANT
Egyptian society says that Nahla Fekry has five years to find a husband.
Fekry disagrees. She’s a 25-year-old from Cairo working toward a master’s in business administration. Her dream to open and operate an Egypt-based company is what led her to Webster University.
“Younger women, like me — now we have our own mind,” Fekry says.
Compared to former generations of Egyptian women, Fekry’s peers have made progress, yet are far from reaching gender equality. Men are still seen as superior to women in the family unit and workforce, which is why Egyptian government has collaborated with American government in an effort to empower young women.
Last year, Fekry was one of fifty Egyptian women to receive a scholarship to study in America. Despite having no input in her placement at Webster she says she is fortunate because an American degree will help her land a better job and avoid being a victim of Egypt’s unstable economy.
“You have to work to live — and even if you are working, you don’t have a good life,” Fekry says. “People there are stressful; they don’t have time to smile.”
With high stakes, Fekry journeyed to St. Louis with responsibilities to juggle and labels to defy. She was concerned that Americans would wrongly associate her, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, with ISIS and other terrorist groups.
From the time she arrived, Fekry says Americans have treated her very kindly, despite many giving her “the look,” which says, “you are not one of us.”
At Webster, Fekry works for Housing and Residential Life as a Resident Assistant (RA) — on top of an internship and intensive graduate program.
“I love being an RA because it is a leadership opportunity for me,” Fekry says. “It adds to my communication [and] problem solving skills. Maybe it doesn’t relate to my [degree], but it adds to my personal life — how to deal with different types of people.”
As for her many undertakings, Fekry doesn’t mind. She likes a busy life and having accomplishments, no matter the size or significance. But the burden of circumstance, being 6,000 miles away from home, does weigh on her at times.
“Sometimes you miss your family, you miss spending time with them, talking in Arabic, talking in your own language,” Fekry says.
Still, those thoughts only surface for short spells. Fekry is determined to power through the trying times.
When she feels disheartened, Fekry reminds herself, “No, you have to work, you have to do, you have to do to end up [achieving] your dream at the end.”
Story & photos by Isaac Knopf