It was inevitable that I would one day attend the American University of Beirut (AUB). Not only was my father an alumnus, and I grew up listening to his countless stories, but for ten years, I could see the campus from the school window. I truly consider myself among the fortunate few to have been fully orientated to the university years before I attended.
I could always count on the university being there, a breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle of Beirut. I often caught myself daydreaming about becoming one of its students, confident that attending AUB would be the right first step in fulfilling my goals and dreams.
So when I finally got my acceptance letter, it felt like coming home. I remember the huge smile plastered on my face as I walked down the steps of Main Gate on Orientation Day. I was not just a university student, I was an AUB student-a title that comes with much legacy and history.
This year, the university celebrates 150 years since its founding. It is highlighting the many academic achievements and developments throughout its history. But it also knows that it has a great impacton the lives of students and alumni, so it is encouraging people to send in their stories and memories.
I can’t even begin to describe the impact it has on me and all the memories I have associated with it, so I will summarize it in a single thought: in the 19 years I have lived in Lebanon, I’ve spent 16 in the direct vicinity of AUB. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I enrolled, I intended to take in every single moment, to live the whole experience. Sure, I wanted to do well in my classes, I wanted to build a future for myself. But I was not about to let the opportunity pass me by.
So over three years, I overnighted on projects, studied at Jafet ( our main library), and took some very interesting classes. I joined more clubs than I could count, wrote and edited for the student newspaper Outlook and was a member of its cabinet, and went to events I never thought I’d be interested in. I even had the honor of slipping on the steps of Main Gate on my first day of junior year.
I pronounced Bathish in the most American accent only to find out it was an Arabic name, asked for directions, and spent an entire semester running from lower to upper campus under the rain. I got lost in Nicely, walked the entire upper campus four times a day, and sat in some classes, wondering why I ended up there. I made friends with people I can’t go a day without speaking to, and others whom I never see anymore, took advice from random strangers, and dispensed it on others.
I had trouble with registration, waited for my grades to come out on AUBSIS, and avoided plagiarism like the plague- or so I hoped.
I witnessed Opening Ceremonies, Founder’s Days, an inauguration, a tuition increase protest, SRC elections, Outdoors, and the opening of two buildings.
I was in tears on graduation day because I didn’t want to leave just yet. As far as the college experience goes, I had had it all, and I was not willing to give it up because I had completed my degree. I had become a much different person at that point. All thanks to AUB.
But life goes on, and it takes you away from the spaces and places you love. But even then, I wore my class ring proudly, almost obsessively. I would have my AUB with me no matter where I was, even if I couldn’t see it from my window.
Two years later, I found myself back at AUB, because you can never stay away from home for too long.
As AUB turns 150, I hope it continues to give many members of its community that sense of home that it gives me. I hope it continues to improve and achieve one success after the other, building and inspiring generations to come.
As our region goes through some of the darkest times we have seen, it is important for us to have formidable institutions that bring together education and character buliding, that give the young generation hope that they could do something for themselves, that they could become leaders, pioneers, and innovators.
I couldn’t think of a better example than AUB.