Senior Wisdom: Reim Salaheldin Atabani
Written by Bwog Staff
Name, School: Reim Salaheldin Atabani, BC
Claim to fame:
I don’t make any claim to fame, but I’m a former MSA exec and RA. I’ve managed to know a lot of people without really being known. And I suppose I’m the last person you’d expect to be from Las Vegas who actually is.
Self-actualization? I’m not sure. I’d like to work for a year. Then I’m convinced I’m going to take photographs and learn Arabic in Khartoum. Eventually, I’d love to practice urban planning in Muslim societies as I listen to the call to prayer five times a day and try to live a carbon neutral life.
Preferred swim test stroke?
I haven’t stepped into a pool in over a decade, by choice, which is one more reason I appreciate Barnard (and swimmers!).
What are three things you learned at Columbia?
1. Even at a place like Columbia University, where we’re surrounded by a certain type of accomplishment, there are still a million different ways to be amazing. No personal effort or experience has to be insignificant as long as it’s a positive contribution, even if just in your own life. So trust your instincts enough to live by your own expectations and values instead of others’.
2. Good character is rewarded far more often than ego. It’s more rewarding, too. I was lucky enough to have friends who proved that to me this past year.
3. The community here is incestuous, so it’s a good idea to be nice as you tell that obnoxious person in Butler to be quiet. She’ll probably end up being your RA.
4. Sleeping at odd hours or not at all for four years seriously impairs your ability to do things, like count properly. Plus, I think college is much more worthwhile when you’re not sleep walking through it.
Justify your existence in 30 words or less.
I might not come to your party, but I’ll help you bake a cake.
What was your favorite controversy in your time at Columbia?
MEALAC/Ahmadenijad/Nadia Abu al-Hajj’s tenure battle/the SIPA graffiti/Horowitz’s two visits/Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week/half the things the Republicans did/Joel Klein, I guess/etc. I think that was every Muslim student’s favorite controversy.
What memory best exemplifies your college experience?
That’s kind of tough. I have lots of really circular, serendipitous stories that embody recurring themes from these past four years, namely, late nights, good people, new experiences, and especially happy accidents.
The flip side to that would be all those awkward times I’ve had to explain why I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing (“I don’t drink/No, I’m actually not Dominican or South Asian or Ethiopian/I go to Barnard.”) People make lots of assumptions.
Which prof do you think would be the best kisser?
You know, Khalidi’s wife seems pretty happy despite all the heat that couple takes. I think that speaks pretty well in his favor.
Days on Campus memory?
Over the course of one rainy weekend, I fell in love with Barnard, accepted my spot, and canceled the rest of my college visits. I think the deciding factor was the thought that attending college at an old school in New York would be like a mix between some urban summer camp and a happy boarding school, neither of which I had ever attended. That’s probably why I was wrong (though the Quad does feel like a summer camp at times).
Sure. I wish I had visited home at least twice a year, been less timid, actually mastered Arabic (I wish!), trusted myself to learn a lot of things sooner, and let more people know how wonderful they are. But I can appreciate that some lessons take longer to learn, and in the end I’m simply blessed to have met and loved so many inspiring people. Thanks for a bright future of being impressive by association.