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June 6, 2002 Samar Musallam found her focus in women's studies



Samar Musallam

Samar Musallam

Photo by Christian Fleury

by Eleanor Brown

Samar Musallam will never forget her worst moment at Concordia. Despite disastrous marks, she wanted to transfer into commerce. “They essentially told me I shouldn’t even be in school,” she said. But the tough response turned her academic life around.

She’s graduating this month with a grade-point average of 4.19 (it may go up as a late mark works its way through) in her chosen program, women’s studies, and she’s on her way to law school.

“I was very young when I started — 17,” Musallam said. She is now 26. “If I look back at who I was, I was just very confused, I didn’t have a focus on what was important to me. I had no idea what I was doing [and] I didn’t like it.”

Much of Musallam’s childhood was spent travelling. Her parents fled Lebanon as the civil war percolated, ending up in Saudi Arabia, but foreigners can’t get citizenship, and the family wanted a real home. In 1987 they tried Montreal, but couldn’t find work. Finally, they settled in Greece. She later came back alone to study at Concordia.

Musallam started in economics, then took a couple of years off to get a college diploma in hotel and restaurant management and do an internship in Washington, D.C. She came back and took random courses to find something that would “open my mind.”

Women’s studies turned out to be it.

She has also represented Concordia out in the world, appearing in Maclean’s magazine to trumpet Concordia in the annual university rankings issue, and in The Gazette for International Women’s Day.

She told the Gazette reporter one of her heroes is Palestinian doctor, academic and spokesperson Hannan Ashrawi. In response, “I got an anonymous call from someone saying, ‘You should have chosen Hitler, it would have been the same thing.’”

The camaraderie at Concordia is something she will cherish. “No matter where I end up, it will never be as open as here. It’s so accepting and open to discussion; I learned so much from my peers. I hope that’s something I’ll experience again, but I doubt it.”