My name is Areeg Emarah and I identify as Egyptian and Kenyan but also as a citizen of the world. I’ve lived most of my life in Kenya, however, in Egypt I’m not Egyptian enough and in Kenya I’m seen as the Egyptian. However, both cultures have influenced my life immensely and I owe who I am to the the diverse nature of my upbringing.
I never doubted my identity until I came to the UK. I find that in the UK, you need to have several labels attached to yourself. It was quite shocking when I’d say I’m from Kenya and people would point at my skin and ask “How? You’re not black!” At first I found it quite frustrating but I’ve learnt to embrace it and understand that it’s usually curiosity because of genuine lack of knowledge.
Photo 1: Dual heritage
This photo was taken when I was years 13. My class was asked to dress up as a favourite character. I chose to dress as an ancient Egyptian, which said a lot about how I saw myself, even as a Kenyan, I felt comfortable to connect with my Kenyan and Egyptian roots simultaneously. One didn’t have to cancel out the other.
Photo 2: From Kenya to Cambridge
This photo was taken during my interview at Cambridge University and represents an important chapter in my life. As a teenager I didn’t know much about Cambridge and the significance of the institution. I also don’t think the university actively promotes itself to people of colour. I was very lucky to be in an international A-Level school in Kenya on scholarship, where my Headmaster said he thought I should go to Cambridge, and so I did. However, getting to the interview was an expensive process which showed me how such institutions make it difficult for people like me to get into.
Photo 3: Matriculation
This photo was taken during my matriculation, which is when you become part of your college. I remember feeling so inspired to do my best here at Cambridge, so I can go home and give something back to my country. It’s also inspired me to take an interest in international admissions, so I can improve the access other people have to schools like Cambridge.
Photo 4: The runners
This picture was taken back in Kenya during a running event where the whole school did a 110km relay. Kenya is well known for its runners, usually from the Kalenjin tribe from the town Eldoret where I live. Eldoret has the best marathon runners in the world. Running and letting go of everything really reminds me of being at home.
Don’t fear to dream big! But just remember that big dreams take time to be realised and they’re definitely not easy to reach.
Don’t forget home! Always try to reach out and give back in whatever way you can because there’s no one that’ll build a better Africa for ourselves, than ourselves.
Don’t be ashamed of who you are or where you come from!