Baccalaureate Reflections on the Journey


Yousra Kamoona '13

May 19, 2013


I am happy to be given the opportunity to share my experiences with the people that know me and the not so lucky ones who haven’t had the chance to yet.

I am honored to be standing before people who I have worked with, my professors, my friends, and classmates.

I am honored that I was trusted that I will finish it on time. Walt, I did just finish the speech this morning, but it’s OK, I promised myself this would be the last time I procrastinate, until I graduate.

My name is Yousra Kamoona and I am originally from Baghdad, Iraq. I came to Manchester fours years ago, and today I will be receiving my Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science.

Since the theme for this event is “Strangers No More,” I am going to reveal a secret for you of how, with my different background coming from Iraq, I managed to become a “no stranger” to Manchester University and to North Manchester.

The secret is as simple as this: Be willing to see differences, see change and be ready to accept them. Trust me, you will never feel like a stranger anywhere you go.

When we face something new and different, we have the urge to make a decision whether to accept it or not. When making these types of decisions, I have met three types of people:
       1. People who follow their heart and follow that inner voice that gives them guidance.
       2. People who hear that inner voice, and do not follow it as much as they should.
       3. People who are lost and have no idea what I am talking about right now.

If you are in the first category, then you probably should’ve been standing here instead of me.

I was No. 3 during my first three years here. Now I put myself as one of those people who hear it, but have ignored it many times. I am hoping I can share some facts of what it is and how I found it.

This inner voice, it gives you ease, it gives you comfort … but only if you follow it.

I believe the ultimate way to find this inner voice is by trying new and different things, and by willing to accept these differences and changes.

When I came here and faced this new culture, new school, and new people who are different than the people I grew up with, I became more cautious, scared and gave everything I approached a lot of thought. I thought of all the pros and cons of whether I should accept these differences and theses changes or not. I ignored the fact that as much as I think of that decision, I can never predict and know where it may actually take me.

I heard my inner voice over the past four years, when I served as:

      • A member Student Today, Alumni Tomorrow
      • President of Manchester University International Association
      • When I worked for ITS
      • And many others …

Every single one of them opened so many opportunities for me. Let me tell you something hopefully you already know: Every single thing you do in life, every experience, and every interaction, is part of who you are and who you are going to be.

Yes we should think before we act, but you do not need to question your action so much. Sometimes you should just get up and do something new: Meet a new person, try a new class you never thought you would take, play a new sport. One day you will hit a good one and that’s when you know you were following your inner voice ... following your heart.

Do not waste your time of the shoulds and shouldn’ts. Instead, go out there and try things, meet different people, and explore your options.

Do not be afraid of change, change is good. If it is not, then change it!
You do not need to think of all the reasons behind everything you do. Do it and the reasons will come along.

I do believe that. Steve Jobs once said: “You can only connect the dots looking back, not forward. You just have to trust that they will connect”

Try change, try different. Your will find sides of you that you never thought you had. If you are adventurous, you will find your safe side. If you are wild, you will find your quiet side, and so on…

What I am trying to say is: Do not think of change and differences as having to change yourself and having to give it a lot of thought. Instead, think of it as discovering more about yourself and adding more to your experiences. Be willing to see it, accept it, and embrace it. You WILL be rewarded. I have become more of myself in the past four years, that is for sure.

Thank you!