From Babylon to Brockport

Fearing for her family’s safety, Hiba Abdullah fled Iraq and came to Brockport to pursue a degree in Medical Technology.

Not many college students can say that the reason they came to SUNY Brockport was because they no longer found their home safe, but Biology student Hiba Abdullah is one of the few.

Hiba spent nearly 30 years of her life living in Babylon, Iraq. During that time she lived a humble life. She married her husband, Nawar, both of them received their bachelor’s degrees, and had their first child, Sinan. When their family started receiving death threats for her husband’s time working with the United States government, they decided to move to America in fear of their family’s safety.

Coming to America Hiba knew little English, so she and her husband, Nawar, spent their first two years taking English classes at Monroe Community College (MCC). The couple took every class that they could together in hopes of creating some community connections and to assimilate to American culture. After their first two years in America, they decided it was time to advance in their careers, and that meant going to another college.

“Having my husband with me at MCC was such a huge help while getting used to such a drastic change,” Hiba said. “Even though he attended RIT after MCC, he still came with me to meet my advisor, Dr. Laurie Cook, my first day at Brockport!”

In Iraq, Hiba had received the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Biology. This allowed her to transfer almost all of her credits when coming to Brockport, nearly finishing her major before stepping into the classroom. However, Biology was never the field that she truly wanted to pursue. In Iraq, there is a standardized test that all students must take, and based on the results, a major is then chosen for you. Hiba always wanted to go into the field of medical technology, but due to falling just below the 90th percentile cut off, she was denied the opportunity and had to settle for Biology.

“Don’t get me wrong I love Biology, but it is much different in Iraq,” Hiba said. “We have barely any labs or equipment to work with and they also focus much more on microbiology and animals; whereas here we can learn more about human anatomy.”

At Brockport, Hiba is now reaching towards her dream of joining the field of medical technology. After talking with Dr. Cook her first day on campus, Hiba knew that she had her work cut out for her. Dr. Cook informed her about the competitive nature and difficulty of being accepted into the medical technology program at Brockport. Hiba was raising her two-year-old son and was pregnant with her daughter, Lian. With a second chance at her dream career, she refused to falter. Hiba did all she could to solidify her spot among the applicants, including a research opportunity with Dr. Cook in which they explored the MCH and its influence on multiple factors in the 3T3-L1 cells. After months of grueling work, she received the news she was waiting for just days before Christmas.

“It was quite a surreal moment for me, as my whole family huddled around me to open the letter,” Hiba said. “Seeing the words ‘Congratulations you have been accepted,’ I have never been so happy in my life!”

From here, Abdullah seems on track to achieve the goals she reached for back in Iraq. She is now at the culminating point of all her hard work, starting with her field experience at Rochester General Hospital. The program starts with a 10-week schooling portion where students spend time in classroom lectures. She then will work in the lab at the hospital and eventually finish the program at the ACM Medical Laboratory where she can explore specialty areas and completer her study and take the exam for a Medical Technology Licensure.

“I am so thankful for how much Brockport has been able to help me along my journey,” Abdullah said. “Hopefully, I will be able to receive a job at Rochester General Hospital and achieve the dream I set out to back in Babylon, Iraq.”

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Posted: July 27, 2022