Recalling myy Soliya Connect Express Program experience, I would say that it was one of the most eye opening experiences throughout this course. In fact, I did not understand or expect what the program would be and how the sessions would go and honestly, I wasn’t even excited for it at the beginning because I usually do not like to participate in activities that I knew nothing about. Quite unexpectedly, it turned out to be one of the most exceptional experiences that I truly enjoyed so far. Not only was this program fruitfully informative, but it was also greatly helping in improving my personal skills and even gaining new ones.
During the first session that I attended, I was very surprised by the flow of the conversation and how all of the group was openly discussing controversial topics that people usually fight when any of these conversations are brought up to the surface. For instance, one of the topics discussed was gender roles in different societies, misrepresentation of women on social media, abortion and even racism. To my biggest surprise, many of the group members from Chicago, Tunisia and Brazil stated many similarities between the Arabian culture and these other cultures regarding the gender role stereotypes and that men usually have more opportunities than women in jobs and salaries and even the normal life chores. Moreover, these sessions were very constructive from my perspective because they were built on the basis of respect and each member had the opportunity to speak for his/her opinion respectfully without being restricted with the absence of any fight due to conflict of interest.
In addition to being uncomfortable at the beginning of the program because its flow was very vague for me, I was exceedingly concerned about communicating with people from around the world whom I don’t know because I usually used to be shy when it comes to participating in these kinds of sessions. However, it did not take longer than 15 minutes at the beginning of the session to feel comfortable around my group members and talking to them with ease which made me feel that I achieved something that I did not expect as the best scenario that I thought of was being able to participate in the sessions because I had to and not because I wanted to. Another thing that I feel is an extremely crucial factor in my experience was gaining the skill to ask questions. In other words, during the sessions, I practiced that thing of coming up with a question regarding a certain topic that would get the one answering it to reveal his true thoughts about the issue and how he/she views it which was definitely an addition for me because whenever I was put into a situation where I had to a direct a general meaningful question to somebody regarding a new or controversial topic, I never knew people ask on what basis and I always felt that all the questions that I thought of was very silly to be asked. In spite of the fact that I thought the same way at the beginning of the sessions, I got over this issue by forcing myself to ask the question that I think is relatable the most and by time, I got used to the situation until I became able to come up with questions instantly. This was clearly reflected when I completed the survey assignment that we had after the third session which required me to interview three of my friends that were not participating in Soliya to know their opinion about a specific topic that I would choose. For this assignment, I chose to interview people and know their opinion about illegal immigration which was my digital narrative game topic. At the time, I felt so happy because the interviews that I made went with a light flow and questions that I determined were addressing the vital points.
When I look back at the overall experience, I would say that it was a combination where I experienced both fun and interest while on the other hand, I gained a lo of knowledge and gained couple of skills that most probably I would not have the chance to gain them otherwise.