A Saudi female student was able to register her name as the first Saudi deaf woman to obtain a master’s degree from Howard University in Washington, USA, in the field of Psychology.
The story began when the Al-Hanouf family discovered at the age of 8 months that their daughter was losing her hearing, but when she grew up she was enrolled in the Al-Amal Institute to graduate from its academic stages with distinction, and the ambition still resided within her to continue her studies in completing her university degree.
She had hope of obtaining a private university degree despite her condition, and after a long search, she discovered that there was no private university that would receive a group of deaf students, which almost destroyed her and diminished her resolve.
The ambitious girl “Al-Hanouf” spoke to Al-Arabiya.net in sign language, saying: “May God help me after the decision was made to allow a group of deaf female graduates to join one college, which is the College of Home Economics in Riyadh, as a first experience of its kind, and those who obtained high grades in high school. I had a share with a group of female colleagues, and despite my happiness to be admitted to the university and facing many difficulties, the university did not have sufficient experience and basic qualifications to teach deaf students,” she said.
she continued: “The most important problem and obstacle that I encountered during my university studies is that after two years of study, I have not had any luck or success in one of the subjects, and according to the university system I could carry it for the next year, but what happened, the study plan was changed, which forced me to redo the year.” I repeated the first year and studied again, according to the new plan, which was quite shocking to me, but I passed it and continued with my career until I graduated, thanks to God.
Al-Hanouf continued her story: “I feel proud of myself, after all these obstacles that I faced, after I graduated from the university, I heard about Gallaudet University in the USA, which is exclusively for deaf people, so I decided to complete my master’s degree.”
“I applied for the scholarship and was accepted to Gallaudet University where all the teachers and most of its staff are deaf. It’s located in the center of Washington. After my admission to the university, it was necessary to study the English language, so I studied at the Gallaudet Institute for two years from 8 to 5 every day,” She explained.
“ It was an hour there and an hour back, using the subway, and during that period I mastered American Sign Language skillfully, and I gained many experiences through studying at this university, and mixed with students from all countries of the world, and I had many activities inside the university, including becoming a member of the Saudi Deaf Club, after that I moved to the Language Institute at George Mason University in Virginia, where the university provided two female translators, and I was studying with non-deaf students. I also benefited from the experience of studying at Mason University, and I got to know a large group of students who do not suffer from deafness, and I participated in a club to practice the American Sign Language, by holding a weekly and monthly meeting with a group of deaf people, to spend fun times and share experiences.
She added, “After that, I took the ELS test so that I could enroll in the university and complete the master’s degree, and I obtained a degree that would qualify me for admission to the university. With ease, but rather facing challenges, the most important of which was studying two new languages at the same time, American Sign Language and English.”
She said: “I have had a great interest in photography since childhood, and after that I developed myself by attending many training courses with many skilled photographers, and I participated in exhibitions and competitions inside and outside Saudi Arabia, and I got first place in one of the international conferences of the deaf in the State of Qatar, and I was hosted in many From TV programs.”
She concluded: “One of my goals is to work to help the deaf community with what they need, whether by educating them academically or by raising the awareness of Saudi society with all that pertains to this creative group. In addition I aspire to conduct courses in teaching American Sign Language, and workshops in photography for those with inclinations in this field. I also have an initiative called “Speak with Your Hands” which aims to spread the Saudi Sign Language through printing. I have many ideas that serve and help the deaf which can be implemented.”