Article by Ana Ferreira
My name is Ludina and I am 23 years old.
I am from the Sultanate of Oman and I am studying mechanical engineering at the University of Malta.
Coming to Malta was not really my choice. In our country, during the last year of high school, you must select a few countries around the world where you would like to apply to enrol in University. Then the government chooses for you which country you will be placed in. If you have a good mark you can apply in this way, to go abroad, but it is not your own choice where you move to.
However, before I moved to Malta, I lived in Ireland for one year. After having lived in Ireland, coming to Malta was like paradise. Everything went smoothly when I came here. The University helped a lot with all the bureaucratic hassle, paperwork and all, I felt no difficulties. And the weather here is amazing, not gloomy like in Ireland. Now I can go to the swing in the park every day, like I always did in Oman, even during winter.
In Oman our streets are very wide and here everything is very narrow. This is a very small country and it is a bit of a shock. There is no similarity between Malta and Oman.
Except the language. I was impressed at how similar our languages are. I used to tell my Maltese colleagues: “wow, I do understand you guys!”.
In my class I am the only foreigner and it is a challenge. The Maltese speak their language all the time so the fact that I can get the gist of what they are saying really helps.
Although I am in a class full of Maltese students, they do not really interact much with me. I try and we do get along, but we are not really friends. My friends here are all foreigners as well: Algerians, Libyans, Omanis, Saudis…But it depends a lot on the class you are in, this is my experience, but I have some Omani friends at University who are more integrated with the Maltese.
The people here are extremely nice, though. My neighbours, particularly, are so nice! Where I live, they are very friendly and even find funny my obsession with the swing! But still in Oman people are even friendlier, everyone is so warm and close! Also, everyone is so much more respectful. I miss the people from my country.
Living in Malta really changed me. Growing up in a European context or in an Arab country is really very different. Back in Oman when you are studying your family already tries to make you think about getting married. But once you get here you contact with a different reality and you start thinking that getting married at a young age is not a good thing, you need to enjoy life first. That is what I am doing now, and my family does not pressure me anymore.
In fact, my family was always extremely supportive of the idea of me moving abroad and encouraged me to further my education. We all cried when I got my scholarship. My mom did not even let me question whether I was coming, she insisted that she wanted me to have the best future possible. Finishing my studies is the priority to all of us, not marriage.
I lived in Malta for four years now, I have one year left here. When I am done with my studies I want to go back to my country. I cannot stay in Malta because my mom wants me close to her.
You know, growing up I actually wanted to be a TV presenter, not an engineer. But I had this amazing teacher in school that convinced me to pursue a career in science because she thought I was good in science and it would be a waste of talent. I am happy she did.
I would like to work in my field when I go back home but in Oman it is a field considered more for men, so it is a bit difficult. I will still try. I am a hard worker and an ambitious girl, who fights for her goals against all odds.
The companies and Ministries in Oman are trying to promote equality between men and women, but it is still challenging. If a career in mechanical engineering does not work out, I hope to open my own business in Oman, a restaurant. I enjoy cooking very much, it makes me relaxed, so it would be a good alternative.
Speaking of food, in the morning of Eid there is a dish that we eat, rice based with sauce, that I miss a lot. That and halwa, a sweet, these are typical dishes I would completely recommend to anyone who wants to dive into Omani food culture. Food, landscapes… Oman is a place to discover. Beauty has an address and that address is Oman.