American Club Inc.  - Auckland

Peter Brown Memorial Friendship Award

2016-2017 Hadeel Salman - California Western School of Law, San Diego

Peter MELLALIEU: Hadeel Salman &emdash; 1121 2016-08-06 20-43-54 IMG_3027

Hadeel Salman is the 2016-2017 recipient of the Peter Brown Memorial Friendship Award. The American Club of New Zealand offers the award to promote friendship between New Zealand and the United States through supporting undergraduate study in the United States. Having completed her secondary schooling at Long Bay College, Auckland, Hadeel, at the time of her award, was undertaking a joint BA LLB focussing on law, sociology, and social policy at the University of Victoria, Wellington. The award of the PBMFA contributed towards Hadeel undertaking one semester of study at California Western School of Law, San Diego from September 2016. From San Diego, Hadeel travelled to attend the American Sociological Association Conference in Seattle.

Peter MELLALIEU: Hadeel's travels in the USA &emdash; 00417141677_10154543976388845_476641509_n.jpg


Prior to her departure for the U.S.A, Hadeel received the Victoria International Leadership Programme award (2016) merited for her participation in programmes including the New Zealand Model United Nations, Community Law Centre, Te Putahi Atawhai Student Mentoring, and Greenpeace. Hadeel has mentored new law students through a programme supported by legal firm Kensington Swan, and worked as a summer clerk, promoted to paralegal, with Prestige Lawyers, Auckland.

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Returning to Wellington in 2017, Hadeel continues her final year of studies at Victoria University.

In her application essay for the Peter Brown Memorial Friendship Award, Hadeel notes that

“Law is a marker of free societies, and can be a powerful tool for positive social change. Through my semester’s exchange to California Western School of Law, I want to understand better how the law and state policy relate to immigrants’ notions of home and belonging, and to prejudices they may face. This will further my goal of becoming an international lawyer. I chose to attend California Western because it is known for valuing students and providing an education that does not compromise effectiveness and cultural values. Furthermore, San Diego is a city that promotes cultural diversity, respect, and unity, whilst California is home to great writers and intellectuals.”

Hadeel, you departed for the U.S. from Auckland in August. You have now been at California Western School of Law since early September. What have been the highlights of your life and study so far in the U.S.?

I went to the American Sociological Association Conference in Seattle. This was an extraordinary experience. I was so fortunate to meet people from all over the world and connect with scholars who share the same passion for immigration and refugee law. 
 At the conference, I attended a panel that referenced the work of Hannah Arendt. This panel helped me understand what it meant to be a “refugee.” The refugee’s vulnerability is rooted in his or her status as a person without citizenship: abandoned by the homeland and at the mercy of reluctant states awaiting resettlement. If one defines “citizenship” as political membership that guarantees the “right to have rights”, then the refugee appears excluded. We are in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War Two. It is the worst humanitarian crisis of our lifetime. Syrian citizens are fleeing their home to escape violence. According to the United Nations commission of inquiry, all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes including murder, torture, rape, and enforced disappearances. The Syrian government has also blocked access to food, water, and health services through sieges. Innocent civilians have been left without food, water, or healthcare. Attending the conference was one of the highlights of my U.S. exchange because it really put things in perspective for me. Countries like New Zealand cannot continue to turn its back on Syria’s refugee crisis. Indeed, New Zealand has a moral obligation and an international obligation to accept refugees.

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You no doubt had some anticipation of what “American Life” would be like from your prior study, film and TV, your family, and general “prejudice”. What are the more startling contrasts you are finding between your newly-experienced “American Reality” and your anticipations?

I grew up watching American TV so I certainly had some preconception of what life in America would be like prior to moving. It’s true, Americans love their sports and have big team spirit. I loved getting involved and cheering for the Chargers, the Padres and the Lakers! I reminisced about New Zealand’s sporting culture and how we all come together to support the All Blacks. I did not anticipate facing any prejudice but my friends and family were concerned that there was going to be a general “prejudice” against me because I was a New Zealand immigrant originally from the Middle East. Their concerns were further heightened when they saw the success of Trump’s divisive campaign.

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There was one incident where I was subjected to prejudice. I had become close friends with someone whom I met at a college football game. One day his father came to pick him up after his baseball game. My friend planned to introduce me to his father but asked me to refrain from mentioning my religion because his father did not like Muslims. I was very upset and shocked because I have never had to deny my identity in New Zealand.

I would like to note, however, that this isolated event does not represent the principles and ideals of the U.S. I found San Diego a beautiful city that celebrates and welcomes diversity. I was so fortunate to meet and network with students who believed that diversity is our strength in this increasingly globalized world.

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California Western School of Law and San Diego are full of “bright young things”. How do you find the sense of collegiality and competition compares with your early university and school studies?

I found the workload to be challenging. In the U.S. you must first obtain an undergraduate degree prior to attending law school. Unlike New Zealand, a law degree in the U.S. is part of graduate school. Though the workload was demanding and difficult, I was determined to do well in my studies. The professors at California Western were very approachable and accommodating. I would advise future exchange students to visit professors during their office hours for extra assistance. They were always happy to help and look over my work to ensure that I was on the right track.

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How did the California Western experience advancing you towards the goals you espoused when you first applied for the PBMFA. Have your goals matured or stretched in anyway? How?

California Western School of Law advanced and developed my goals of becoming an international lawyer. International law and international environmental law really captivated my interest. During my time at CalWest I was introduced to an organization called Survivors of Torture International. This was an organization that worked to rehabilitate survivors of politically motivated torture. Since San Diego was going to be my home for the next seven months I felt an obligation to serve and build that community. I became an advocate for a torture-free world. As an Arabic speaking woman, I was able to work with asylum seekers and refugees from Iraq and Syria. This was an extraordinary experience because it allowed me to understand firsthand what refugees and asylum seekers are escaping from. I also worked alongside Hope for San Diego. Hope for San Diego partners with organizations that help refugees and immigrants navigate through a new country. Refugees who have been fortunate enough to gain resettlement face obstacles to building new lives, such as stigmatization and lack of opportunities for successful integration. Hope for San Diego helps prepare refugees for life in their new home. Hope for San Diego also helped connect me with other organization such as Refugee Tutoring. I helped assist teachers at Ibarra Elementary. I became a mentor for children from Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, and Mexico. It was amazing to watch the students grow and make progress in their learning. The students have filled my heart with love, hope and joy. They come from traumatized backgrounds, yet they dream of becoming doctors, teachers, engineers, and singers. It was hard to say goodbye to my students because I had grown so close to them. They have enriched my life immensely. What advice can you offer to future New Zealanders aspiring to study in the U.S., and California Western in particular?

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The previous winner of the PBMFA, Karri Shaw, helped me prepare for my time abroad. Prior to my exchange, Karri had spent a year in the U.S. so I was able to ask her questions about her time abroad. I was very grateful to be able to connect with her. This exchange has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I would tell future New Zealanders aspiring to study in the U.S. to go for it – you will not regret it! I would also advise people to get involved and explore the U.S. outside its classrooms. Become a mentor for a young child who may not look like you or who comes from a different background. Teach them the path that you were taught to become a successful human being. Teach them the path that led you to where you are today and where you want to be in the future. This will help you grow as a human being and allow you to have empathy and compassion for someone who walked a different life from you.

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How has your special interest in immigration law advanced since joining California Western? How do see that interest will develop over the next year?

I have always had a special interest for immigration law. During my time at California Western, I wrote a paper that focused on the current refugee crisis. It was interesting to learn that in April 2013, the New Zealand Immigration Amendment Act was amended to respond to the possibility that a mass arrival of refugees would overwhelm the refugee protection process. The Act included mandatory detention of mass arrivals for a period of up to six months and limited the rights of asylum seekers to access the courts. Under the Act, asylum seekers in New Zealand experienced new barriers that jeopardized their safety and well-being. New Zealand is a member to the Refugee Convention, and is currently a member of the UN Security Council. However, in my view our government is not sharing responsibility in the face of the global refugee crisis. Instead, the government has implemented prejudicial laws that harm asylum seekers and refugees. I am in my final year of university. I look forward to completing my degree and building towards my career of becoming an international lawyer. Reflecting on the current social climate, immigration is going to be a very contested issue.

Peter MELLALIEU: Hadeel Salman &emdash; 1124 2016-07-28 17-07-08 IMG_3851

I was in Cuba when President Trump issued the executive order that prevented seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. – regardless of their visa status. I was born in United Arab Emirates, not one of the seven countries affected by the order. I was very anxious that I would not be able to re-enter the U.S. because my father is of Iraqi decent. However, on the way to the airport I realized that I was very fortunate to call New Zealand home. If the U.S. would not accept me then I was able to return home - a beautiful country that loves me and accepts me regardless of my religion. While travelling to the airport, I acknowledged my privilege. Unlike Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had worked as an interpreter for the American Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad, which made him a target in his home country, I was able to return to a safe country. Unfortunately, refugees like Hameed Khalid Darweesh do not have that option as they leave their home country in fear of persecution. They fear for their life. Many countries are closing their borders and are unwilling to resettle refugees into safe host countries. I believe that we should open our arms, heart, and homes to those escaping violence and terror. I hope to make a positive contribution to this world and support the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) in their plight. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that the PBMFA award has given me.

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Interview developed with Peter Mellalieu.

Additional photos of Hadeel Salman here or iPhone here.




2015-2016 Karri Shaw - University of Oklahoma

2015-2016 Karri Shaw - University of Oklahoma

Letter from Karri - November 2015

My flight to the States felt much shorter than expected and surprisingly, I was able to sleep most of the way - even with a crying toddler in the seat in front of me. Despite my rest on the plane, I arrived at LAX feeling physically exhausted but mentally ready to take in everything about my new environment. I expected there to be one big moment where I realised I had travelled halfway around the world to some strange foreign land.. That did not happen. Instead, since my arrival, I have had many moments where the social and cultural differences between the USA and NZ dawn on me. I must admit, however, that it is much more similar than I had expected before my departure.

During my stay in LA, I was lucky enough to spend time exploring the tourist hot-spots while my family where at work, but I also got the opportunity to get off the beaten track a bit. Venice Beach was certainly a highlight, it was exactly like it's reputation! I visited with my uncle and we cycled along the beachfront up past Santa Monica, which was incredible. I did note the difference between these affluent areas and downtown LA. I was very shocked to see the very obvious issue of homelessness all around me. It seemed that the places I enjoyed the most were simply sheltered from his harsh reality, but I am glad I got to see it firsthand before beginning my studies. I spent my last few days camping with my family and their friends at Jalama Park, which is a raw coastal area north of Santa Barbara. It was incredible, I have included photos so that you can see where I was staying. It was incredible to get away from the city and spend the evenings under the stars, searching for famous constellations and getting to see the milky way.

The culture shock didn't really kick in until I arrived at OU. Everybody has been very friendly and welcoming so far, so that has helped a lot. However, there have been moments where I have to remind myself that certain things are not wrong, they are just different. I've been able to travel a bit, I went to Atlanta for a music festival with my friends (where my phone was stolen unfortunately) and camping in Wichita Mountains - they are beautiful! Heading off to Miami next week for Thanksgiving break with some friends and then I will be spending Thanksgiving day with my OU Cousin (an American buddy up system) and her family. 

My courses are very interesting. They don't necessarily have a Public Policy department, so my papers are in Political Science, Cross Cultural Management, International Business and Italian here. It's very different to home, as we have much smaller and more frequent lectures here. I am not sure yet which option I prefer, but I certainly seem to be going to my classes a bit more here! They are quite efficient and although they seem very strict in the first week, all of the Professors are really understanding and tend to change deadlines frequently. That was something that suprised me a lot, because at home my lecturers tend to be very strict on exact times and dates of hand ins. American students also seem to be a lot closer with their Professors, I suppose it is more of a student - tutor relationship like at home. As such, they often feel very comfortable arguing their grade even when they don't necessarily put a lot of work into the assignments! I suppose it is because the grading system is a lot harder here.. a 50% C at VUW is usually between 60-70% here depending on the class. 

It's definitely very interesting learning about American politics and the similarities between their system and ours. I am focusing on Superannuation (Social Security) for my final paper, which is quite eye opening. I have to admit to having quite a clouded view on American politics, but as I learn more about it, the whole policy system seems to be very similar to New Zealand actually. 

Hope you are all doing well and enjoy your Thanksgiving function! Thank you again for your support, without it I am not sure that this entire experience would have been possible.

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