Just like all university students, those attending the American University of Beirut have their own stories that go beyond their majors, their exams, and their courses.
Social media account 'Stories from AUB' aims to shed light on the human side of these students by bringing their personal stories to the table.
They will most definitely warm your heart.
"I have a motto in life, if you want to do something, whatever it is: do it well."
Danielle Krikorian, 20, Art History + Fine Arts major and Creative Writing minor
"It’s such a huge field, and there is so much work you can do with Art History. When I first started my degree I had full support form my family, they approved completely. They are very proud actually. I have two sorts of reactions from people. One of them is like awe at the fact that I study art, and the other is just like…they react negatively. They just don’t understand what I study. I know that in life you have to work very hard in whatever you choose to do, and honestly I just want to be able to wake up and be happy with my choices. When I am doing what I am [doing] I just realize how much I love what I do.
At school they kind of [squeeze] the imagination out of you and I’ve always had this artistic drive ... and at AUB I strive [for] it. I guess I was just born wanting to do this. The hard work comes from me being driven and liking what I’m doing, I can’t just do it as a pastime; I have to be fully immersed. I have a motto in life, if you want to do something, whatever it is: do it well."
"When I got diagnosed and found out I had a heart condition, it made me more passionate about things in life and I became more optimistic."
Karl,18, Business Administration major and Theater minor
"I'm an optimistic person. I love my major. I’m also a really enthusiastic person. I love jokes. I love food. I hate sports. I can’t do sports anyway; I have a medical condition. I had to have a battery implanted for my heart because I have a genetic mutation which affects the skin and the heart. Only 28 people in the world have it, so it’s very rare. I might need a heart transplant in like 5 or 10 years.
[...] When the doctor first told me, I was shocked but I got over it fairly quickly. I don’t think about these things. My mom, on the other hand…my mom was quite depressed for a bit. I didn’t really, really care because I’m living my life normally; I don’t feel any pain, and there’s nothing really wrong. I just can’t do sports. (It’s a good thing I hate it.) Nothing really changed after I got diagnosed, thankfully. My family members are always worried about the future; how we’ll travel and leave everything here, how being on the wait-list might take 6-7 years, the cost of a heart ($500,000), how we’re going to get this amount… I try not to think about it. When I got diagnosed and found out I had a heart condition, it made me more passionate about things in life and I became more optimistic.
The diagnosis kind of pushed me forward. Life is much shorter than we think – it’s too short not to be enjoyed."
"People do acknowledge art, but they also choose to ignore it."
Yara,19, Architecture major
"Art is under-appreciated mostly by people who don’t do or pursue art, and by art I don’t mean just painting. Ballet is an art. Dancing is an art. It’s under-appreciated specifically here in Lebanon. If you’re dancing salsa, they’d laugh at you. People still have this predisposed idea that we should all be engineers; that we should all be doctors, meaning we should be, not passionless, but we should be… I don’t know, conforming.
[...] Now, the new generation are going, but they’re not really going for art; they’re just going for the social media and what they're gonna post later on [...] People just take advantage of art, you could say, for the social media posts. There’s a girl in my ballet class who, every time she comes, she comes for like 45 minutes, she just takes a picture of her pointe shoes and doesn’t really do anything, and then posts it on Instagram.
“Look at me, I do ballet (but I really don’t)”. It is under-appreciated, but it is known. People do acknowledge art, but they also choose to ignore it."
"I’m saying that AUB has changed me in a way that I’m proud of."
Elsa, 22, Business major and Psychology minor who recently graduated.
"I was supposed to graduate last year, but I didn’t feel ready and I felt like I hadn’t made the most out of my college experience. I felt like I was still in this phase where if you just took me out and put me in the workplace, I would’ve been out of place and probably unhappy. AUB still meant something to me and I was not ready to let go of it.
Four years ago, I would’ve never imagined I’d be the person I am now, with the beliefs and the mentality I have now. I was that shy kid who’s afraid to speak up; the kind you’d probably spend a whole year in class with and never notice.
[...] AUB exposed me to different views, different opinions, and different “kinds” of people, if you may.
It made me rethink a lot of the things I once stood for. [...] I’m not saying that I’ve learnt everything there is to know. I’m saying that AUB has changed me in a way that I’m proud of. I think, now, I’m more open to listening to other people. I don’t just close doors on beliefs or opinions or things I don’t like anymore. And it’s kind of been – I’m also going to use cheesy words – an emotional rollercoaster; I’ve had the best and worst experiences of my life in this place… I met my closest friends and strengthened bonds with others. I owe to AUB the person I am now. It’s been amazing and I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to move on and do the next thing. I'm prepared to face whatever's coming. A lot of people I know say things like, “oh I can’t wait to leave this place”, and obviously I joke about it too. I mean, I am happy I’m graduating, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve kind of… left something here."
"I really think the problem with the Middle East is that we don’t build on people’s passions and strengths."
Omar,19, Business Administration major and Theater minor
"I’m afraid of not pursuing my passion, not doing what I love. But, at the same time, I’m also afraid of doing the things that I love. I’m afraid of failing in them. There’s that voice telling me I’m not going to be able to make it, that I’m not good enough.
[...] But, honestly, my dream is not just being in the industry, it’s helping to shape the industry. I really want to open a theater, in AUB actually. That’s one of my goals. I want to open a school for the gifted, so not just for the arts. I really think the problem with the Middle East is that we don’t build on people’s passions and strengths. We’re expected to become doctors, and even if we’re not good in biology, the answer is still to become a doctor.
And that really makes me angry. I grew up in Jordan and lived my whole life there until I came to Lebanon. My school was not a typical school, it was more like a club. It was incredible in the performing arts. Jordan wasn’t really exposed to a lot of theater, but when my school used to put on plays, everyone would attend, from all over Amman.
[...] I was the kid who was bullied, I was really shy, I didn’t [use] to speak up. But when I joined the theater, it felt as if people liked to hear what I had to say, liked to see me act. They were interested. They didn’t [...] think 'oh, it’s that kid again, let’s push him to the side.' They let me be passionate about theater, and it’s only grown from there. They let me be me, and I’ve only grown from there."
"Social change is something I believe in. Specifically acceptance. Not putting people in categories of human beings. Not marginalizing people according to normative beliefs. Social unity."
Maher, 20, Nursing major and Gender Studies minor
"Social change is something I believe in. Specifically acceptance. Not putting people in categories of human beings. Not marginalizing people according to normative beliefs. Social unity. The good in human nature. And my belief in the good stems from my belief that everyone is capable of changing, one way or another. Once you find the source of the problem, you can change anything.
I was suicidal and depressed for 3 years, between age 17 and 20. I was indulging in very, very, very self-destructive behavior. I didn’t understand the source of my desire to destroy myself. I didn’t bother. I just knew that I hated myself and the way I am.
I could never understand why people liked me. And I could find so many admirable characteristics in others, but not in myself. At some point the downs were beating the ups so I just kept indulging in things that would keep me up all the time to the point where I screwed over my body.
It was a point in my life where I would do anything not to confront the sight of my empty bed; solitude. Society is my refuge, in a way, as long as I’m around people… We’re taught to always wear the 'happy mask': if you’re happy, you’re okay. It’s not because I’m a man. It’s not because I’m a male figure in a patriarchy. It’s because I’m Lebanese and I’m a man.
And being Lebanese and of the social class I’m in, I cannot show discomfort. I’m not allowed to show that I’m upset with something, I’m not allowed to cry in public, so I’m expected to always be smiling, to feast on others’ happiness. And so I did. I became the joker. I would make sure that every social circle I was in would be laughing in my presence; they had a happy that I could never have for myself. Something major happened and I ended up in the hospital. I got diagnosed as bipolar with borderline personality. So when I believe that people can change, I do so wholeheartedly. Do I want to die now? No, because I found a mission; I want to change the world. And I will not die until I see that happen. So that's why I believe that the world can change. And that people can change. Does that answer your question?"