Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

Every man in my family proudly wears the title of “Dr.,” while every woman takes equal pride in their title of “Mrs.” Unfortunately, this is not a unique story for Egyptian women. As the first woman in my family to pursue a postgraduate career in something other than child-rearing, I am driven to pursue my graduate degree by the thrill of the challenge and the reward of opportunity.

Each woman in my family once held a burning passion that has since been relegated to dusty books on a shelf in their husband’s office. A Facebook article about artificial intelligence programming sparks hours of chatter from my mother, while my aunt glows with the opportunity to talk about anatomy. My family entertained my research and fascination with the law and systematic racism in the criminal justice system. Graduation, however, marked the death of these conversations and queries of potential husbands and future babies sprouted in their place. The day I mentioned law school, my grandmother made the truth of this phenomenon apparent: more degrees scare away a husband.

Perhaps it is childish to be heatedly fueled by the pretense of being told no, but every chiding phone call from home stokes the fire in me. It is the fire of a challenge that fuels me through all-nighters in the library and a semester’s reading load of 2,376 pages. Each obstacle I clear, be it the law review competition or the dreaded grading curve, unfolds new opportunities.

I never had choices until I chose to go to law school. Choices were never available for any other woman in my family. What pushes me to pursue a graduate degree is the freedom to choose. Any home I build and any children I have are for me to decide.

More than that, I can promise each of my (numerous) nieces that they can dream. The opportunities that graduate school has granted me seem bountiful to a woman who only ever had one opportunity. However, their opportunities will be endless; what was my ceiling is their floor.

Hana from Michigan
Michigan State University College of Law