Photo courtesy of TEDx NYUAD
Missed the NYU Abu Dhabi TEDx event last week? That’s alright: the eleven speeches will be uploaded on YouTube very soon, so you can still watch them. The speeches spanned a wide range of topics, but were united around the theme of Bookmarks. Here is a brief introduction to each of the speakers and their unique “ideas worth spreading:”
Gulam, Class of 2020, was born and raised in Kenya. In his talk titled “Zero Point Five,” he discussed how biracial identities challenge society’s inherent tendency to categorize. Drawing on his personal experience of not fitting into either of the two races, he explored the problem of treating race as the defining aspect of one’s identity.
He iconically said, “It has been a long time that we [mixed-race people] have struggled figuring out our identity, who we are, trying to place ourselves into one circle of the Venn Diagram but no! It is time to create our own circle and then to be a significant statistic in the world.”
Luis Francisco Gonzalez
Gonzalez, Class of 2020, talked about “Diversity through Conversation.” He explained how he was able to use conversations to adapt to a new environment, embrace his Mexican identity and make friends from across the world.
As he summed it up, “through conversations in situations of diversity, we are able to get to know ourselves, others, and the things we share better."
A Pakistani engineer by profession, Khan, Class of 2020, has directed, acted and produced over 25 productions, all while having a speech impediment. In his talk titled “The Act of Learning,” he used his experience to explain a simple, yet forgotten, method of achieving one's goals.
In his own words, “Learn from the ways others have walked your journey. Let their experience, let their learning become yours.”
Launder, Class of 2020, is majoring in Biology with a Specialisation in Brain and Cognitive Science with a minor in Psychology. In her talk “Invisible Injuries: When a Concussion is More Than Just a Concussion,” she broke the silence and stigma surrounding cognitive injuries and urged the audience to question their perspective on what it means to be injured in a way that cannot be seen, measured or definitively diagnosed.
As she poignantly put it, “just because you can’t see it, just because it isn’t visible on medical scans, does not mean it’s not real or that it’s any less of an injury ... We’re people, and we get injured. We get visible injuries, and we get invisible injuries. And that’s okay. That’s okay.”
In her talk titled “Behind the Veil,” Najeeb talked about her journey and how she challenged the norms of her society as a Pakistani woman.
A Social Science instructor at NYUAD, Najeeb holds a BSc Honors in Finance and Banking, is an alumna of the NYU School of Professional Studies, a recipient of the Prime Minister's Academic Excellence Award. She has over seven years of experience in the financial industry.
Najeeb powerfully said, “what you see here is the success, not the journey behind that success. This bio does not tell you that Saba Najeeb comes from a household where it is not a norm for women to hold jobs. It does not tell you that she had to fight all odds to be able to pursue her higher education.”
Birga Schumpe, Ph.D
Dr. Schumpe, a psychology researcher at NYUAD, analysed the cognitive reasoning behind the popular idea of “No Pain - No Gain.”
“Whether it is experiencing physical or psychological pain, the moment we sacrifice important goals, we perceive our actions as effective … It is not so much that we keep engaging in painful activities despite their negative consequences but more so because of them!” she explained.
Why do people use how difficult or painful something is as a barometer for how valuable it is? More importantly, how can this be changed, such that people can pursue their goals without subjecting themselves to trauma and unnecessary struggle?
Ali, Class of 2021, is passionate about uplifting socially marginalized groups and fighting for their rights. In his talk, “Inclusion for Equality,” he evocatively said, “Don’t feel sorry for me because I cannot see. Feel sorry for what your ignorance is doing to me and millions like me.”
In sharing his journey as a visually impaired person, Ali emphasised the significance of treating people with disabilities equally and including them in the mainstream discourse. He argued that rather than the disabilities themselves, social biases and stigmas shackle differently-abled people and hinder their ability to flourish in society.
Flores, Class of 2018, is a Literature and Creative Writing major, Howler Radio DJ and a comedian. In her talk titled “Please Take Me Seriously,” she took the audience through her journey and revealed the secrets to her award-winning, homegrown comedy.
“Something I learned ... is that humor isn’t as one sided as people think. In a world that values putting a brave face on, humor has helped me see the importance in putting that mask away… We’re all trying to learn how to let our guard down; it’s a shared struggle. And within this struggle, I’ve learned that vulnerability is strength,” she reflected.
Imran, Class of 2019, is a double major in Legal Studies and Social Research and Public Policy. In her talk, “The Problem of Achieving Dreams,” she shared her rollercoaster-like journey: from not being allowed to pursue education, to attending one of the most selective universities in the world.
As she said, “The problem of achieving your dream is that ‘achieving the dream’ is simply the first step. It is almost inconsequential. What matters more is what you do past that bookmark.”
In sharing her struggles of mental illness, chronic pain and much more, she explained what she has done past her bookmark of coming to NYUAD.
Farzan Ahmed Khan
Khan, Class of 2018, is a Residential Assistant, proud captain of the NYUAD Cricket Team and Senator on the Student Government. But what many people don't know is that he was not always on top of his game. In his talk, “Normalising Failure,” he reflected on his experience with failure and urged the audience to redefine how they view it.
As Khan said, "Sometimes, all you need is a nudge to make a decision to turn things around. For me, it was the realization that my favorite superheroes failed and were vulnerable just like me ... I hope there is something or someone or ideally yourself that tells you that it’s ok to fail; that you will get to a point where things fall into place, eventually and until you reach that point, just keep doing what you have to do."
Stegall, currently the Residential College Director at NYUAD, delivered an inspiring talk on “Creating Vision: Patience, Wisdom, and a Preference for the People.”
“I have a confession to make. I am hopelessly in love with the idea of world peace. So much so that I dream about it. Can I ask you to close your eyes and dream with me for a moment? … Open your eyes. Now that we have envisioned this utopian human existence you may ask, how we can get there. Well, I am glad you asked. Vision is the vehicle my friend,” he said boldly.
Kaashif Hajee is Deputy Opinion Editor. Email him at [email protected]