From a refugee camp in Palestine to Oxford PhD: Preserving Palestinian heritage

Help fund the education of a Palestinian girl refugee who beat the odds, got accepted into Oxford, and is pioneering research on Palestinian linguistics.

Shahd needs our help to attend Oxford, complete her research on Palestinian Arabic Linguistics, and launch the world’s first language center in the heart of the West Bank in Palestine which will keep her history and spoken language alive forever. 

You can support Shahd here.

SHAHD MADE IT AGAINST ALL ODDS, NOW SHE NEEDS YOU SO SHE CAN PAY IT FORWARD

Shahd is a woman, refugee and Palestinian who was born in a refugee camp. She has been accepted into the Oxford PhD program and needs the support of the global Palestinian diaspora and the global community. Here in Palestine, supporting a woman like her to go study linguistics seems to be a crazy idea. Therefore, Shahd is so excited to start her journey of preserving the Palestinian dialects and cultural heritage.

REFUGEES CAN CHANGE THE WORLD, ESPECIALLY PALESTINIAN WOMEN

Shahd with her relatives at Tulkarem refugees camp where she used to live

As a Palestinian refugee, she was raised in a very challenging environment and difficult circumstances, where she had to move with her family and to change their living place more than 5 times in 20 years. This challenging life did nothing but motivated her more to achieve and change reality so that other Palestinians can have a better life.

“I HAVE ALREADY BEEN ACCEPTED INTO OXFORD – BUT NO ONE IN PALESTINE IS ABLE TO FUND ME, I NEED YOU!”

Shahd got accepted into Oxford, but couldn’t get any scholarship because the funding opportunities for Palestinians to study Linguistics at Oxford are almost non-existent.

There are no PhD holders in the Syntax-Semantics Interface field in Palestine. Studying at Oxford will enable her to be the first person to bring this field to be taught in Palestinian Universities. “I would really appreciate it if you can support me to achieve my dream to do my DPhil in Linguistics at the University of Oxford.  Your support will help me achieve my dreams and motivate other Palestinians and hopeless people to dream bigger and work very hard in order to make their dreams come true.” – Said Shahd

Shad attending a meeting for women’s rights and empowerment – Ramallah Women Training Center 

HER LIFE STORY STARTS IN A PALESTINAN REFUGEE CAMP IN TULKARM – WHERE SHE NOW LIVES AND TEACHS AT UNWRA

Shahd finished her third year secondary school with a GPA of 99.86%. People expected her to be a doctor or an engineer as it is usually expected for high-achieving students in her society, but she had a different passion. She studied Applied English linguistics at the University of Jordan.

She was very happy that her GPA qualified her to study the same major of her father, i.e., Applied English. Her father was very proud of her. She was very hard-working and passionate about learning. The more she learned, the more she wished to go back to the West Bank and contribute to its education and prosperity.

After her BA degree, she went to work as a substitute teacher at Al-Nahda international school in Saudi Arabia and was able to gather the money needed for the fees of her master’s degree in Linguistics. In her MA degree, her knowledge expanded, and her research skills were sharpened. She was engaged in several research works that widened her horizon and solidified her background in the different fields of Linguistics. 

Master’s  Degree Thesis Defense- University of Jordan

After her graduation, Shahd had a job offer to work as a daily-paid lecturer at the University College of Educational Sciences- UNRWA in the West Bank. “I was very glad that my wonderful dream has finally come true. I have taught there 14 different courses for four semesters. I have also supervised students’ school practica in UNRWA schools in different refugee camps of the West Bank. I also supervised their graduation projects.” – Said Shahd

Celebration with her students after finishing the Writing 2 course – UNRWA 

Her interest in Linguistics was shaped by the education she received during my BA and MA degrees in Linguistics at the University of Jordan in Amman/Jordan as well as her online research experience in Computational Linguistics, Arabic dialectology, and Morphology at the Center for Computational Learning Systems (CCLS), Columbia University.

Shahd worked on Taizi, Sanaani, Najdi, Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Moroccan. By the end of the project, she published a paper with the team that is entitled “Morphologically Annotated Corpora for Seven Arabic Dialects: Taizi, Sanaani, Najdi, Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi and Moroccan”. Her deep passion for Linguistics motivated me to go back to the West Bank and bring all the knowledge and skills she gained to it. 

This actually drove Shahd’s passion towards making a Palestinian dictionary that conscientiously seeks to reflect the language diversity of Palestinian dialects, cultural heritage and identity. She is working on this dictionary with two of her former students and two leading figures in Linguistics/ Computational Linguistics.  

Collecting her corpus data took her two years. Shahd has approached more than 250 subjects whose ages range between 100 and 60. She recorded stories and bittersweet memories of war, displacement, Nakba, Naksa, 1st and 2nd Intifada.

You can support Shahd here.

‘They also told me about the jobs and the tools they used to. I have taken pictures of most of what they have in their houses. They showed me their special clothes and they invited me for their special meals that are almost unknown to the young generation these days. I was very happy that all of these things were documented by many audio-records, pictures, videos and linguistic notes that have to do with (the word choice, pluralization, negation, word forms, etc). Unfortunately, some of the things they told me about were left behind in their houses that they were expelled from in 1948. Although I could not take pictures for these things, my students and I will draw sketches and show them to these elderly people.”

All of these Palestinian Arabic words will be translated into Modern standard Arabic and English. Moreover, this work has sophisticated features that contribute largely to Machine Learning and Machine Translation.

”WE CAN NOT LOSE OUR LINGUISTICS OR WE WILL LOSE EVERYTHING”

Unfortunately, in every time we lose an old man or woman, not only do we lose a linguistic source whose language is more authentic than the younger generations, but we also lose part of the truth, culture, history, and rights. Therefore, we need to preserve this linguistic heritage, especially for endangered dialects and sub-dialects in rural areas and document them for the next generation. After 50 years, new dialects with new words would come into existence.

​Your Support will not stop here 

Shahd’s dream is to come back after graduation and help Palestinian students, especially Palestinian refugees in their education. “I will dedicate 40% of my future salaries to achieve this goal in hope of helping as many people as possible.” – She said

​What Shahd will need to start her journey at the University of Oxford 

The DPhil in Linguistics is an advanced research degree, awarded on the basis of a thesis and an oral examination. She is expected to submit her thesis three years from the date of admission. The fees cost for the first year is $30,148.  Following the University of Oxford financial declaration.

​Documents 

You can find Shahd’s certificates, recommendation letters and other documents in this link.

​Contact

Shahd will be happy to answer any of your questions at shahddibas2@gmail.com

You can support Shahd here.

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