Dubai, UAE: An Emirati couple who gave up their jobs to pursue PhDs hope their efforts will encourage other locals to continue into higher and further education.
Ghanim Kashwani, 27, and Abeer Sajwani, 29, met as undergraduates at the American University Sharjah five years ago.
Since then they have mirrored each other’s academic achievements having completed their masters degrees before beginning PhD research at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai last September.
“We are both keen on doing research and the best way of pursing that more seriously is by doing our PhDs,” said Abeer, who is doing her doctorate in environmental management in construction at the university’s Build Environment School.
“In life these days you can’t stand still and rest on your laurels, assuming the education you had five or 10 years ago will still be relevant.”
She believes it is important for people to set themselves goals in life.
“It’s very important that people understand the value of education,” Abeer said.
“I hope that by our example more people will choose academia or, at the very least, be open to further education.”
After graduating from AUS with a bachelors degree in environmental science in 2007 she went on to work for developer Nakheel as an environmental officer.
Abeer had first-hand experience of the impact of the changing job market while working for the company during the global economic financial crisis.
“During the crisis it became difficult and many of the projects slowed down,” she said.
“I realised that to stay relevant in the jobs market I had to keep my skills up-to-date.”
She completed her masters degree in environmental and land planning engineering in 2011 at Politecnico Di Milano, in Italy.
After working as an environmental engineer at consultancy RTI International along with her husband they both decided to head back into the world of academia.
“Academia is something we are both very interested in and, ideally, if we can continue doing research that would be fantastic,” she said.
Husband Ghanim agreed. “You can’t just rely on things you learnt during high school or college,” he said.
“It has to be a life-long practice.”
He completed a bachelors degree in civil engineering at AUS in 2010 before completing a masters degree in the same subject at the same university in 2012.
While studying for his masters, Ghanim worked as a researcher and teaching assistant at the university.
“We met while doing our degrees at the American University of Sharjah and academia has been an important part of our lives ever since,” he said.
Both Abeer and Ghanim were able to get scholarships from the Emirates Foundation to allow them to pursue their PhDs.
“We are both very interested in doing research work and that was the main reason why we both decided to give up our jobs and do our PhDs,” he said.
“It’s going well so far but obviously there have been challenges since we started last September,” he said.
With both of them having to travel around the country as part of their PhDs, finding enough time for family is difficult.
“It’s all about time management and we do our best to make time not just for ourselves but also our families,” said Ghanim, who is doing his PhD on safety engineering in construction in the UAE.
“It’s very important that you not only make time for your work but also your family and we are very conscious of that.”
© The National
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