Fatima Hewaidi: 3rd culture individual

The life/travels of Fatima Al-Zahra Hewaidi, are plentiful. Libyan by origin, spent her life between Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Vancouver.

Fatima has had to adjust to cultural and societal norms across a vast array of countries. It is because she has grown up amidst diverse cultures and constant new ways of life that she naturally gravitated towards pursuing a BA in International Relations at the University of British Columbia. 

"Be honest with yourself and what you really want. Your greatest competitor, and judge, is often yourself - so learn how to listen to your body and be comfortable with embracing change."


What is being fearless: 

To be fearless means to stay true to yourself as you serve a purpose through which you find fulfillment - and doing that on a consistent basis. Staying true to yourself means holding yourself accountable to yourself before anyone else, and at the end of the day, asking whether the decisions you made, the results you achieved, or the dialogue you have exchanged, was the absolute best you could do given the resources you had to work with.

At the same time, being fearless means having the courage to re-evaluate, when necessary, the principles you stand for, the norms that are embedded in your society, and embrace change when your inner gut advises you to do so. That means (1) going against the current alone and persevering; or (2) having the ability to  be open to the voices, opinions, and purposes of others, even when they clash with yours.  We are living beings that thrive best when we interact, and cooperate to achieve goals that are bigger than ones we could have achieved alone. So we must institutionalize, within our own minds, a space for constant reflection, re-evaluation, and adaptation to voices, environments  and trends that were once foreign to us. That all stems from being honest with yourself.


What has been your greatest fear you have had to overcome: 

As a "third culture" individual, I have never had a home to which I felt an innate sense of belonging. My entire family is from Libya, but I was born in Abu Dhabi and raised there as an expat. Which a lot of the time meant that I couldn't call the UAE my "sustainable" home. When I was twelve years old, my family immigrated to Canada. While Vancouver has been a great home to us, I always felt that something was missing and I knew that I couldn't spend my entire life here.

I'm twenty-two now, and I have yet to feel fully Canadian. At the same time, whenever I go back to Libya, I never feel whole-heartedly Libyan. So you can imagine the kind of identity confusion that could follow this line of thinking. To overcome that, I did a lot of deep reflection paired with even more travelling. I keep realizing that the life that I've had so far, with all the moving, becomes all the more enriching especially when I proactively reach out to different cultures. I'm now most comfortable in social circles that involve people from diverse cultural backgrounds. I spent most of last year living in a small French town, which now I consider to be another home of mine. I'm about to move again to Italy for a year and then to Washington D.C. for the following year to complete my graduate studies -- which means more places to call home! 

In the end, overcoming my identity dilemma meant deconstructing what "home" really means and tailoring that term to whatever provides me with happiness and a deep sense of fulfillment.


How do you work through your fears: 

I spend a lot of time alone reflecting on what informs my values and decision-making at a given moment in time. Through that process, I try to identify what has worked for me, and what should probably be modified in my thought dynamic.

To fill in the gaps, I explore different options by seeking the advice of mentors who understand my needs and passions (and my flaws), and I regularly engage in new opportunities, particularly ones that I find very challenging, in order to keep growing as a person. I find that every time I set new goals to achieve, or set my mind to acquiring new skills, I leave one more fear behind me and I find new fulfillment in places I didn't exactly expect to do so.


Advice for others: 

Be honest with yourself and what you really want. Your greatest competitor, and judge, is often yourself - so learn how to listen to your body and be comfortable with embracing change.

Make the best out of the experiences that you have. If you feel that you're stuck somewhere for a short while, don't keep thinking about better days ahead. Find (or create) an opportunity that fulfills you in the present moment. When in doubt, make sure to seek the advice of experts and mentors who may offer you ideas you didn't consider before as to how to approach a problem.

Embrace who you are and make sure you really know why you're conforming (or not conforming) to the norms that your community adheres to in your social sphere. And make a genuine effort to understand the values of people from different cultures - your own thought process will grow even richer as a result of that.

Posted by: Nicole Parmar

Photo Credit: Suzanne Rushton Photography