Oxford, what more can I say!?


One of the main reasons I am hell-bent on making blogging a habit, instead of something I only get around to doing once or twice a year is photography. Just before taking this Oxford trip, I bought my very first DSLR which is a Nikon d5100, which is why this trip was so well documented.










I went during the small time I stayed in London last year, and as my aunt is an Oxford alumna, so she volunteered to show me about the area and inform me of the history a little, because really how impressive is Oxford Union until you know about the people who have once stood in there.


The Radcliffe Camera, the most ridiculously photogenic library in England!

Oxford is one of those classically English cities, You have the traditional architecture and the quaint little cafés and tea shops, teamed with my favorite building of all time, The Radcliffe Camera which besides being the most photogenic building ever, is also a Library.












I will not bombard you with too many facts and tips since I mainly want you all to enjoy the photography and perhaps leave a comment letting me know what you think!


Right outside the Vaults and Garden Cafe, where I tasted the best Thai  curry ever, it also is a cafeteria style place which gives it that studenty/university feeling even more!



The Grand Cafe, the site of the first coffee house in England.


The Eagle and Child, A pub famous for having been frequented by authors like J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis















Inside the actual Oxford Union building, I didn’t take many photographs as I was so starstruck by all the pictures of the people who had spoken in the building like Malcolm X, Mother Theresa, and Shashi Tharoor.

There you are, these are my favorite shots of Oxford, do let me know what you think in the comments below, whether on the photography or your personal favorite Oxford spots…


The oxymoron that is Libyan Education

Recently I received the news that I have successfully completed my sixth semester at Tripoli University’s department of Linguistics, which should be fantastic, I should probably be ecstatic as this puts me a year away from graduation. Except I am not!

Such news ought  be accompanied with a small sense of achievement, some sort of development, perhaps even a slightly bigger head what with all the learning I   have been doing, However in this case no achievement is noticed, no development took place, and my head is still relatively the same size.  What accompanies the news for me instead is this feeling of wasted time, like I have lost 3 years towards something that is yet to benefit me in any way. Now this is not one of the situations where I am just seeing the glass half empty and should instead direct my eyes to the half which is full, because right now  in Libya the present is what matters most as most people try to take their lives day by day avoiding the creeping sense of doom that comes from thinking past the time limit of 3 months into the future.

I have learnt a long time that Naser (What Tripoli University’s B franchise is nicknamed) is a tad worse than the original one, beyond the fact that it used to be military camp; something clearly seen in the aesthetics of the place, it is also a place that has been seen as the rejects hub. The college where all those rejected from medicine, engineering, and architecture went, or simply the place for those who are simply in it for the shiny bachelors at the end.

Knowing all this, I still went in with some expectation, as long as there were professors willing to teach and materials to be read,  I didn’t see why I couldn’t make the best out of it.  First four semesters were torture, curriculum was weak, uninteresting, and I ended up spending way too many hours roaming the university due to absent professors and  ones not even bothered enough to give lectures, which is why I was working part time before my second semester started.

Then fifth semester started, I was working full time at that point and simply picked up materials and attended exams. Reading was not difficult, tests were simple and straightforward most of the time, and I avoided contradicting professors at all costs. Yet by the end I found out I was failed at a subject, TRANSLATION. It is quite ironic that I would fail this subject as I have been  partially working as a translator at the time and have yet to receive a complaint from anyone including various embassies and companies I had translated for. When I confronted the professor, he informed me that the reason he failed me was due to my absence. What about my exam results? I asked, well it turns out he couldn’t be bothered to read my answers because I did not attend and therefore LOGICALLY could not possibly answer the exams. Ahh, common sense, how can I argue with that. After plenty of arguments, he offered to let me pass with 56 points so long as I filled out a form, but I had been keeping my percentage up hoping to have a decent over all grade and quite frankly, the offer seemed so sleazy and underhanded that I chose to retake the subject and show him.

Here was my dilemma; now if teachers are failing me not because of my grades but because of my attendance, how could I keep up my full time work and still pass with a decent percentage.  I couldn’t due to some regulations passed by the university that anyone with an absence of over 30% cannot sit the exams and therefore would fail by default. And that is how I lost my one sense of achievement, the one thing which offered some sense of accomplishment in my life replaced by 20 hours a week of mainly useless lectures plus commuting and hours spent memorizing the material as the majority of professors simply didn’t accept paraphrasing of their materials in exams.

This is all made much worse by the temporary excitement I had when I signed up for a Literature class last semester, being such a book worm, I didn’t see how this can go bad. It turns out the class contained Two hours of simply reading a ridiculously simplified version of Shakespeare’s  The Merchant of Venice, the sheets we read from were so badly typed that there was an average of 20 grammar/Spelling mistakes in each. Now I ask you this, what would possess someone who is apparently a ” Linguistics Professor” to throw away the highly praised play in iambic pentameter and give us not even the sparksnote version, but what appears to be a version rewritten by a 5 year old child!? This sense of disappointment was only heightened by the fact that no discussion was allowed in the lecture, and that the professor seems allergic to any student input. When examinations rolled around, our professor released a bunch of sheets with the questions and answers that would be in both the midterm and final exam. Which to some may sound like heaven, but to me sounds like our dear professor wanted to keep the number of passing students high enough in order to maintain his post and wasn’t entirely sure his teaching would accomplish it.

This is one example of many others, and I am sure less people would be frustrated if specimens such as those were replaced or perhaps even given a talking to by the administration. But for now, every student’s will and enthusiasm towards learning has been curbed by our academic institution, and when paired with the inability to do anything on the side and still maintain a decent percentage, we spend 4 years simple pushing through dull, un-motivating classes designed by professors who are simply looking forward to their monthly cheque.

Though, do not let my overall negative tone fool you, there are RARE figures currently at the university who work hard towards instilling any sense of passion in students, I had the pleasure of having such a professor in my fifth semester,  but the  overall majority still disappoints. What I am trying to point at here though, is that it is not difficult to get the proper error-free material,  it is not difficult to hold an open discussion in class, and neither is it impossible to allow them some input here and there, it may even render all those prepared questions and answer sheets for exams useless, because now we have a class which understands the curriculum.

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this or not in this blog, but I am a radio host for Radio Alsaa 90.7 and my topic in the coming weeks will be this, and if any of you have anything to say or would like to share your personal experience with our oh so functional education system, do contact me or simply write it out and send it on Sara.Bilghasim@Gmail.com so we can share it on air.

And you can follow all updates about radio, Life and what not on Twitter @ Sara Bilghasim

Ramadan rants


A small excerpt from a wondrous poem by Maya Angelou, here it is in illustration by Zen Pencils.

My friends love to remind me of how ranty I get when the subject of women or feminism come up, however it is hardly my fault when there are so many triggers present around me.

The truth is that the way women are viewed frustrates me, just a while back a friend sent me a small entertaining video made by an admittedly talented bunch of Libyans This Video, what bothered me however was the message they were trying to send to  their extensive audience. The video simply talked about the benefits of  marrying a Libyan women compared to those of marrying a foreigner, or more specifically, a westerner!

First of all, may I just state that Libyan women are not worried about the dwindling number of Libyan bachelors choosing to marry non-Libyans, trust me, we do not hold some kind of pity party every time a Libyan marries outside the Libyan pool. Personally, I hope you did it out of actual affection rather than  a desire for some residency card or passport, but never the less, as long as you  don’t harm anyone with your actions and are a contributing member to society, we are perfectly content with our lives, single or married.

Second of all,  if you want to create an ode to Libyan women, make it so without insulting women of other nationalities please.

Third of all, and most importantly so, after having analyzed different types of marriages occurring in our society, this is the best you can come up with. That Libyan women are better for marriage as they will get the kids to bed in time, cook endlessly for you, and clear your life of all types of discomfort, THAT’S IT? What upset me even most is the plethora of people seemingly agreeing with the content of the video.  I understand the social roles of men and women in our country but times are changing, women are becoming job makers, entrepreneurs, artists, you name it. And at this point in our country, we cannot afford to spare any ideas. But when you present young girls with this picture of how they are meant to be and how they must act, instinctively it becomes their goal especially in occasions where that is the only example provided by the environment around her. When you tell a girl that she will grow up to be judged by her cooking skills, homemaking abilities, and marriage potential, it becomes all that occupies her mind especially when half the community encourages it.

This is something that I worry about endlessly, as the eldest I was exposed to more liberal societies growing up, I was influenced by it much more than family actually, which is why I worry for my sisters. How can my family’s influence override that of a whole society, one where they are repeatedly forced into and feel the need to fit in. This society is comprised of their friends, classmates, relatives close and far which do not necessarily put any importance on Women’s thoughts and achievements less they be in the kitchen, but place a majority of it on her role as a housewife, which as noble as it is, is not the whole picture.

The video sponsoring this rant.

Creative writing in Libya


The British Library, London.

I have been teaching English for a while now, and I can obviously see  the high demand for private course and tutoring in this particular subject. However, what I never saw was any interest in Writing, or even scarcer, Creative writing. It seems like we all want to learn English and  become fluent in speaking the language, perhaps even good enough to write emails and tweets in it, but no one cares about the artistic aspects of it.

Which is why I was more than surprised when I was called a couple of weeks ago to fill in for a professor who had bailed out on a small English Creative Writing workshop. Besides the fact I was second choice for this -ahem ahem-, but also my ridiculous passion for all things written could sometimes unnerve people just a little, I had lowered both my expectations and enthusiasm and went in for the first day with simple materials and low key activities hoping to just get a feel of the atmosphere and the attendees. I was right to do so, I had 10 attendees but half of them knew nothing about creative writing and were unable to string a sentence together, one signed up thinking this was a conversation workshop, another was under the impression creative writing was reports, essays, and research. After having cleared that up, I could see the disinterest in their eyes.

The second day was when it all started, while only half of them attended, I can feel the eagerness right away. They wanted to be directed towards good material, shown the techniques, and were more than willing to do the silly  activities I assigned them to in hopes that it would stir up their mind and get them generating original ideas.

They seemed to enjoy it, but for me this was an opportunity to share what I knew about this particular subject. We read and re-read The Monkey’s Paw, analysed it over and over again, the plot, the tone, the characters, the language, the setting. I was impressed with the attention they paid to the words and the influence they had on the story. I can see the improvement when it was time to write, I picked a prompt which felt odd, but also gave the five of them plenty of room for creativity; What would you do if you were the last person on earth? This allowed me to see how they had really progressed in these few days because while their grammar was less than perfect, the ideas beneath the sentences were fantastic and  original in a sense that I had never read anything like it before.

I walked into that classroom thinking that any display of eagerness form me would reduce me to a fool in front of them, but in truth, we ended up gushing over sentences, words, and stories all alike. They completely threw me off by admiring creative works like Harry Potter and praising the imagination it must have took to create such details out of nothing. The Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi once said  ” the conventional wisdom was that Nigerians don’t read literature” and for a long time I believed that to be true about Libyans, but there I was with 5 amazing Libyans who were reading great works of literature and with a small show support, were generating their own.

P.s Ramadan Kareem ^_^

P.s.s I strongly advise anyone reading this to check out Chimamanda Ngozi’s TED talk on the danger of the single story here, enlightening and informative

Maghreb Youth Forum (MYF 2521) 2016


A collage of some of the attendees created by the talented Hossam Aljundi

With the amount of depressing news we see in the  MENA region, one would think the media would jump at a change of moods and perhaps focus on a good story here and there, however,  the media remains fixated on misery which only encourages misunderstandings and ignorance.

For example, leave Libya for one of the other countries and you will be shocked by the expectations of people, it turns out that the excessive broadcasting of all things ISIS related in Libya has given off the impression that that is all that Libya has become, a breeding ground for a thriving terrorist organization.  Mention anything close to normal and you will be faced with a quizzical expression and a shocked  cry of disbelief. Shows how little we know of our countries, partially due to media, and to our own lack of interest to what is going on in the region while any one can answer your questions about the US elections anytime or day!

What would help alleviate such misconceptions would in fact be balanced media, which yes is the thing of dreams, which is why so many people have taken this into their own hands with use of social networks, blogging, and youtube, we now make the news.

One thing that did not receive its fair share of coverage was in fact the Maghreb Youth Forum 2521, a conference/workshop that was held in Sousse, Tunisia, held with the main objective of strengthening ties between youth in civic society and improving student mobility between the greater Maghreb countries of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco,  and Mauritania.

3 days that just taught me so much about the region, young people from the region, and  Libya its self, I even had the honor of meeting some of the brightest young people in Libya and I couldn’t have been more proud of all of their achievements and I hope to see a day where they can really get the praise and appreciation which they deserve.


Many things  became apparent to me  during the forum,  one of them was we can all certainly benefit from student exchange across the region which would perhaps be more financially affordable and even contribute to developing the ties between our countries. Another realization was that we couldn’t afford to wait for our education ministries to get on it, as was revealed to us by the education minister of Tunisia, Agreements have been made, contracts signed, yet nothing was achieved  between Libya and Tunisia, However, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco seem to have a small yet functioning governmental exchange  between their public universities which is certainly optimistic.

What was the outcome of such a forum? Well, we managed to in 3 days to develop the mechanics of a theory which can facilitate student mobility, and we now have the contacts which may help achieve that. Personally, I got the opportunity to meet organizations in the region and their members and I hope that with this experience, knowledge, and help of people I have met to be able to make AIESEC Libya a reality.

“Why did you come back?”

“Why on earth did you come back? ”  A question any Libyan who has spent a considerable amount of time outside Libya will get asked upon returning. Besides actual legal restraints such as visas, residencies, and finances, there is a reason why people return here.


Now living in Libya for a life time or a large amount of time can really blind you to the highlights of Libyan life, which do exist even if scarcely so.

Libya is a troubled country to say the least, what with our “the more the merrier” concept when it comes to politics resulting in three different government.  The unique hostile style with which daily affairs are  resolved successfully avoiding any communication of substance,  or the fact that our banks have failed at their one main job, have money!

But, it is also a country that has a hidden bright side. I thought I would be the last person to say this, but  I even missed things I never liked in the first place like Assida and Zimzamat!

What I think everyone can agree on is that Libya has such a unique atmosphere that can’t be easily duplicated. Beginning with our food, strange community which is a thing I am still struggling to understand (people get upset if they don’t get invited to your graduation even if you hadn’t spoken in five years) ,  music, shared love of complaining about the country’s state, and the excitement you get whenever a new business opens up. In a developed country like say, Britain,  no one gives much of a thought to a new small business opening up, however, in Libya, new businesses lift up the mood and just make everyone think that if someone can start a new business, things can’t be all that bad!

I am not sure where I was or am going with this, but it was a thought I wanted to share!


My Achilles Heel!

Blogging has so far been an area where I have failed miserably! I attempted to start blogging about three times and completely gave up on it twice! This is my third time trying and I am keeping my fingers crossed.  The name of the blog is simple, journaliyaat! Journal, an English word and “yaat” an Arabic suffix added to regular nouns to transform them into the plural of the noun. The “Y” is  a gift.

Journaliyaat’s contents will vary according to my moods, interests, and daily life, so don’t say you haven’t been warned! I also plan to share some photography on this blog as I feel that the only way to get half decent at it is to post it and see what people think so far!

I hope that in the coming weeks, my writing will be encourage you to comment any feedback which will in turn inspire me to improve and continue on this Achilles heel of a hobby!



The Tripolitanian Library, The old city.