Tobias Wolff said that “We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are,” and Fida Abu Libdeh’s inspiring story shows what we’re truly capable of.
Published in the 2013 April-May issue of Iceland Review – IR 02.13. By Mica Allan. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
At the heart of the story lies Iceland, raw and unyielding with its blackened lava fields and glaciers and volcanoes. Enter a 16-year-old Fida Abu Libdeh, also unyielding. With the support of her uncle who was already in Iceland, Fida, her mother and her five siblings, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, came to Iceland in 1979. “It was a difficult age to enter a new education system and my 17-year-old sister and I didn’t even know the difference between the Danish and Icelandic lessons at school,” she tells me.
Quitting school for work, Fida then spent years campaigning for Icelandic to also be taught as a foreign language within the school system rather than only as a mother tongue. “That’s why I still disagree when I hear that everyone has the same rights for education in Iceland because unless you know Icelandic, you don’t have the same rights.”
Unable to change the system as she would have liked to, Fida decided on another course of action; to find her own path through the system. Her destination? Her own education. So she went to both night and summer school for Icelandic lessons, “although I didn’t really start to learn Icelandic until I had Icelandic flat mates and Icelandic friends rather than other foreigners like me,” she explains. Armed with Icelandic language skills and with the support of a grant, she then gained her stúdentspróf, the qualification required to gain entrance to university. And so Fida went on to study a B.Sc. in Energy and Environmental Engineering Technology at the Keilir Institute of Technology (KIT).
You can read the remainder of this article in the April-May issue of Iceland Review – IR 02.13. Five times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.