The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Sticking to her ideals


    Radio show host.
    Content manager for websites.
    And that’s only the beginning of international student Hala Dasouqi’s resume, especially because she’s only 22.

    “I’m proactive,” she said, with a laugh, and, from the description of her plans, will continue to pursue her dreams on her own terms.

    Dasouqi, from Jordan, is in the United States through a State Department scholarship, says it took a month to persuade them to let her study journalism instead of taking classes for her major. At home, in Jordan, she is pursuing a psychology degree.

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    “I had a hard time with that, but it worked,” she said with a laugh, adding that many of her jobs have leaned toward the field of journalism.

    Dasouqi has worked as the content manager for several websites and produced and hosted her own radio show. While she enjoys her major, and thinks it offers a good language for communicating with other people, it was important to her to study journalism.

    “I wanted to have the education background … and use this chance to be in the United States,” she said. Dasouqi added that journalism is not available at Jordan University.

    Music and journalism

    Another interest of Dasouqi’s is music, a love passed down from her father. She and her sister began playing guitar and singing at home, which led to recording their music and posting it online in 2005.

    “We had a lot of people listening to it, laughing at what we’re saying,” she said.

    After that, it wasn’t long until they kicked off live performances, naming themselves The Sheesheh Band.

    The group’s music is best described as a critique of society in a funny way, Dasouqi said.

    “People just love it,” she said. While it’s possible to have Jordanian female performers, many of them are very commercial. However, she described the music of The Sheesheh Band as experimental – a mixture of rock, blues and oriental sounds. The group’s name, was chosen because it is a popular item (“sheesheh” translates to “hookah”), and because it is representative of a youthful activity,” she said.

    “That way, they could relate to us,” she said about the name. “Our spirit is youthful.” The band’s lyrics focus on topics including oil, politics and women’s rights, she said.

    “We try to hit every problem that comes around in a … humorous way,” she said.

    Dasouqi’s sister left the band when she moved to Australia after getting married, but Dasouqi continued on with The Sheesheh Band, even though it was now a solo act.

    That’s when journalism found her, or rather, she found journalism.

    The creators of the first website she would work for, contacted her, asking to meet with her after listening to the music The Sheeshah Band produced. She then joined the site in 2008, working for them by managing and producing content for two years. That site, and another she worked for, offer political and social jokes for their audience.

    In Jordan, Dasouqi said, it is a big challenge to be part of the media – most of what is written or broadcast is monitored by the government.

    “You should be very cautious, and smart, to have your point delivered the way you want it to,” she said.

    As of yet, Dasouqi has only taken two Communication and Journalism courses – persuasion, and visual communication. She added that she loves her visual communication course, which offers the opportunity to put photography and videography into practice.

    “It feels really good,” she said. “[It’s] a great experience.”

    Assistant professor Ellen Mahaffy, Dasouqi’s visual communication professor, said she’d like an opportunity to get to know Dasouqi more, which is why she’s encouraging the international student to take one of her smaller photography courses next semester.

    “She seems very lively and engaged and enthusiastic about what she’s doing,” Mahaffy said. “It’s always nice to have a student that has that kind of energy.”

    Mahaffy said that students like Dasouqi are the kind that people want to help move forward, in order to see what they have in mind for their future.

    Differences between Jordan, Eau Claire

    Ideally, Dasouqi said she would like to take as many experiences back to Jordan as possible.

    Mahaffy agreed, saying that studying at the university helps Dasouqi gain another real-world experience that she can share.

    “This is huge for her,” Mahaffy said.

    Dasouqi added that Eau Claire professors are very passionate about what they do. In comparison, relationships between students and professors in Jordan are more formal, and students don’t always have the opportunity to choose their majors. Rather, their GPA chooses for them. As an example, Dasouqi said, students with a high GPA are usually headed toward medical and scientific majors. Students who follow that GPA system pay less for their education.

    As a result, students in Jordan do not really get involved with their majors, she added. But at the university, Dasouqi said, there are some students who really want to learn are very involved.

    Dasouqi is unique in that she chose psychology, opting to pay more money for schooling to do so.

    “It’s your career,” she said, about why she wanted to choose her own degree. “It’s very important.”

    Ideally, Dasouqi has a variety of potential careers to pursue, one of which is to be a famous and respected journalist.

    “I want to be as objective as much as possible,” she said.

    She would also like to be a professional musician, performing in a non-commercial way for a good cause. Or, she added, she would like to pursue a career as a radio host.

    “It feels like, when you are a radio host, that you talk to people directly,” she said.

    Choosing herself over fame

    Dasouqi nearly had her chance at fame in October as a contestant on an NBC-affiliated program, “Arab’s Got Talent,” but chose to withdraw.

    She auditioned for the show in May 2010, playing five songs, impressing the program and earning herself a spot on the show.

    When setting up transportation, though, she found out that the show wanted to perform one of her songs that is a black comedy piece about a hamster. The song makes a reference to Saddam Hussein.

    Dasouqi’s concern was that it could be considered controversial, and that she didn’t want members of her audience to take the song the wrong way.

    “This is not me,” she said. “This is not how I want to present myself to the world.” However, when she offered to sing one of her songs about women’s rights, they issued an ultimatum.

    She could have been exposed to millions of people – but that’s not that way, she said.

    “I have to choose the right thing to do,” she said.

    The future

    Dasouqi will be at UW-Eau Claire until Spring 2012, studying for a print journalism minor. Once she returns to the Middle East, she is set to graduate.

    Dasouqi plans to apply for a radio program at the local Eau Claire station, WHYS. She would like to produce and host a station featuring international music from around the world, and from her parent’s generation.

    In addition, she plans to play in The Cabin before returning home, hoping to make a show that features other international students.

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