“My mom is from Pangasinan; my dad is from Egypt. Mom traveled to Canada after graduating. For some twist of fate, she ended up settling in Saudi, where she first worked as a dental assistant and then as a dentist. That’s where she met my dad.”
“When she was working as a dental assistant, Mom would notice this Muslim lady who would pray often, like five times a day. Mom, out of curiosity, opened a conversation with the lady about her religion and stuff. And then slowly, slowly Mom got hooked. A devoted Roman Catholic, Mom made a decision to convert to Islam.”
“I was born and raised in Saudi. I came here for college. Back in Saudi, things tend to be more reserved. You can’t go out without your parents with you. When I first came here, things were very different – people dress differently, the food is different, the young people are outrageous and loud... The vibe was something completely new to me. I remember getting really thin because I had no idea what to eat and where to eat.”
“But I like it better here. People are warm and welcoming. They’re more accepting. They motivate you. If you don’t understand something, they encourage you to work harder. If your spelling is bad, they help you work on your spelling. People tend to help each other. I've never experienced that before.”
“I’m currently in the first year of Dentistry proper. I think I took it after my mom. I grew fond seeing her treat her patients, until I became familiar with the procedures.”
What’s your biggest moment here in UB so far?
“Obviously, winning as Miss United Nations 2016. Was I ‘forced’ to join? Yes! I tried talking to my teacher out of it, but she was like, ‘Come on, you can do it.’ When I won, she was even happier than I was. But, seriously, I never really had confidence in myself before. Apart from my teachers, my sister – who would always push me to see myself big – talked me into joining the pageant. And of course my mom. I think I also took it after her – joining a pageant. She used to join pageants when she was my age, and she has collected a few crowns and sashes.”
What is college teaching you?
“Put yourself out there, and, like a sponge, absorb only the good and drain those that don’t do you good.”
What are your words for a good life?
“Everything has already been charted for each one of us, and God will move mountains to get you to where you are supposed to be. Just never stop believing in yourself. And always be kind to everyone.”
Ayat was crowned Miss United Nations 2016 during the United Nations Day celebration at the University held on November 7, 2016.
Photo by RENE PASCUA
Interview & Text by RONA LIN