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Mercy College’s Egyptian Fulbright Scholar Reflects on Life in New York

Egyptian Fulbright Teaching Assistant Hagar Saddiek has been teaching and studying at Mercy College this year.
Egyptian Fulbright Teaching Assistant Hagar Saddiek has been teaching and studying at Mercy College this year. Photo Credit: Mercy College

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. -- New York and its snow-filled winter has been a revelation to Mercy College professor Hagar Saddiek, who is living and working at the Dobbs Ferry college as a Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant.

Saddiek, a native of Egypt, spent her first winter of snow, ice and cold weather unlike any she has experienced at home. She arrived in New York in September 2013 has become immersed in American culture.

“I came here because I wanted to learn but I also wanted to clear up many misconceptions people have about Egyptians, Muslims and the Arab world," Saddiel said. "We don’t drive camels and women are not captive. We are free to do as we wish and travel – clearly I am here.”

Saddiek said she also wanted to see if America is really the way it is portrayed in the movies and for the most part she said – it is.

“Americans are incredibly friendly and very straightforward," Saddiek said. "I really like that; it is a good way to be. It is also so diverse here, there are people from everywhere. I didn’t realize how many Muslims I would find in New York. I also had the amazing opportunity to meet people from Ukraine, Japan Dominican Republic, Haiti and many other nationalities – it was fascinating. I would never have that opportunity in Egypt.”

Saddiek said she was a bit surprised to learn that there were many Americans in poverty.

“I was shocked to learn there are homeless people in America," she said.

A teacher of academic skills at the German University in Cairo, Saddiek is teaching Arabic in the School of Liberal Arts at Mercy and taking graduate classes in the School of Education. She lives on campus where she said assimilating to American culture has been easy and that she finds college students have an incredible amount of energy and love music.

“They listen to music all the time – even in the shower,” she said. “I now know all the words to every Eminem song ever written.”

Saddiek will take her American experiences back home to Egypt when she returns in May when the school year ends.