This months Role Model is Zumreta Galijasevic from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, she tells us how she harnessed the strength within her to purse her dreams and how she continues to stay motivated in this pursuit.
My name is Zumreta and I’m from Bosnia and Herzegovina. When I was three, I got diabetes. As I was a little girl, I cannot remember what life without diabetes was like. When I think about it, I wouldn’t even know how to live without diabetes. In a way, life is disciplined but this makes you do things you normally would not do. During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was especially difficult treating diabetes. Sometimes there was no available or accessible insulin or other medication. I went to school and was a pupil of a generation. So there weren’t any exceptions for me. I always wanted something more, however. I’ve never been satisfied achieving a goal and then stopping. I wouldn’t have any reason to keep going if I did so. For me, that would mean stagnation and I didn’t like that even as child!
When I was in high school, I was impressed with teachers and their teaching skills. I wondered how it must be to have their knowledge! Sometimes, I thought about myself in the role of a teacher. After high school, I went to college.
As I was good at mathematics and physics, I wanted to study in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. But finally, I choose economics. And this was not a bad idea at all! I liked it. After university I found a job, traveled and found myself satisfied with life. However, still somehow I felt like I had been missing something or my life needed another dimension. Life went on until I turned thirty three.
Four years ago, as a result of diabetes, I lost my sight.
This is hard for anybody. My whole life turned upside down, especially considering the fact I am a very dynamic person. But soon I realized I was the only one who could help me. I told myself: “You know, you are one cool girl!”. And you certainly have to do something to prove that. So, I found myself thinking at a ‘thousand kilometers per hour’. There was no time for thinking of a bad life or bad luck or how to deal with it. I knew I would do my best. The most interesting thing at that moment was the way I found myself thinking. It was my way. Now, I ask myself if I was absolutely OK as I didn’t ask myself how to live, I asked myself how am I going to read? That was the main problem for me. I mean, if you want to punish me with something, take a book away from me or forbid me to go out.
So, learning to read was a challenge. Fortunately, I met a very special person who helped me with a new lifestyle. He taught me how to use a screen reader, speech synthesizer, how to read and write and how to behave in certain situations. Very soon, I met other people who gave me some more advice. I learned braille and passed a mobility training course using the white cane. I joined a disability organization and also continued friendships with people in my life. I actually didn’t want to make my friends feel like I have a disability. I wanted life to continue. I made them feel as though I was as natural as before, so natural that my friend recently said: ‘You spilled coffee or your cup is filled halfway.’ And after I say: ‘You know I can’t see’, my friend said: ‘Oh, sorry, please, I have forgotten’!
However, it was not enough. I wanted something more. I wanted something to improve my whole life. I felt I was stronger than before and it was not just a feeling. As I wished for this something, I knew I was the only one who could help myself. I wanted to do something very special but had no idea what? So I started discovering new options and considering all possibilities. And very soon, I realized what I really want. I became aware that I want to be ‘first’ in a way, special or simply fantastic.
And I knew what that was. I wanted to do a PhD. It was a ‘waking up’ moment.
I talked to my parents about this and they were supportive of me. First, I finished a master degree and now I’m somewhere in the middle of my PhD studies in the area of economic science. I feel I am very lucky. Fortunately, I have very good professors who support me. Until now, I haven’t had any problem. I have to adapt literature or to ask someone to explain some diagrams or figures. I have a new challenge and like it! Actually, some of my colleagues say I inspire them.
Science is an inspiration for me and my professors and colleagues know this. I think it is something I am really proud about. Sometimes I feel science is like a sea, as it seems the knowledge deepens the more I have been exposed to, the more ignorance I realize I have. This is actually an incentive to learn more! People ask me if there is a recipe for achieving good results, talent, hard work or something else. I heard the saying: Believe, will and enthusiasm. Believe in what you do, wish that and be delighted. This pattern has become my motto and my motivation for success.
I try having realistic wishes and achievable goals. It is difficult to set a vision for the distant future. I would like to be more active in NGO work and gain a PhD. I think it could be a winning combination! Working at the university and within independent living is my dream. For this joint purpose, I attend some science conferences, conferences and congresses for people with disabilities and people with diabetes. Meanwhile, I write scientific articles or articles for some papers.
Improvement in any field is a challenge for me. The theory of a lifelong education is very popular and necessary. Formal or informal education is a style for my life. Sometimes unfortunately, it is very difficult to go to a conference or seminar. It is because of not having personal assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I need to find someone to drive me to the university because it is 200 kilometers away and this is very costly. People have their own obligations and life. However, I will continue being persistent and finding available options and trying to improve them.
Education is very important for anybody. Sometimes people with disabilities may have problems with accessing education or acquiring accessible learning materials. Along with this, we still have to work on ourselves and for our rights all at the same time. Education is also very expensive and there is are other cost barriers that can prevent people with disabilities accessing education such as the cost of personal assistance, medical costs and the current financial situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These are probably many of the reasons why the majority of persons with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina don’t go to the university. Society should do something about this. I think our society should be influenced by my example and find ways to support me and other people with disabilities giving us a chance to be independent. Together we could show that there is a good will among people and opportunities to attain what we need.
Relaxation is also very important. I like to take long walks and keep up my fitness. These walks impact on my physical and mental condition. I also like going out and traveling. Perfumes are my obsession. Chanel is my favorite!
My message: The sun rises, and the sun will set. And any kind of education makes you feel great! You can find the missing part of your life!