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.
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.
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.
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.
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.