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Q&A with Habon Abdillahi: Travelling & Teaching Abroad as a Black Muslim Female
Dec. 29, 2018

Travelling has bountiful advantages. It brings out our desire to learn and our innate curiosity in the world. On an adventure abroad, we discover new perspectives and engage with all types of people and lifestyles. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn and test foreign language skills, try new foods, and navigate a foreign public transportation system. It’s a new adventure everyday as these experiences sharpen the mind and challenge our pre-conceived assumptions.

Experts say several destinations may have become a little more dangerous, now that Trump is in power. Not a surprise. However, it’s not a fear that has stopped the 24-year-old Canadian traveller, Habon Abdillahi from satisfying her ‘curiosities around the world.’

  On top, she lived the dream many are hesitant to pursue and execute; balancing her wanderlust in Morocco with her teaching career as black, Muslim female. In this Q&A, Habon explains her ambitiously driven journey to obtaining a teaching opportunity abroad, and the many countries she explored independently after University. Honestly, incredible...

1. Can you share your full name and age? Also, what job, or studies you are currently doing? How are you finding this study/job?

My name is Habon Abdilahi and I am 24 years old. I am currently in Canada doing my Masters in Education and I am also working at an elementary French School.

2. You are Canadian, what are the best parts about living in Canada, is it where you would like to settle and keep as home for the rest of your life?

I was born and raised in Canada. Canada is a gigantic country so there is so much to do and see! You can go to the east coast for the sea and food. Central, where I live, for the city life, Quebec if you want a taste of Canadian French culture or the West Coast with the beautiful Rocky Mountains. I love nature and I am outgoing so Canada fits my lifestyle. I would love to live in other places besides Canada though to experience more. 

3. You’ve done a bit of travelling, what have been your favorite countries you’ve travelled to and why? Do you have any particular memories from your travels that stand out?

My favourite places so far have been Turkey and Malaysia, both are Muslim countries and have the most hospitable people. The food is amazing and the architecture is insane! It honestly feels like you have been transported to a different world! A memory that definitely stands out is the summer Ramadan nights I spent in Istanbul with my friends and a few American students we met, we would spend all night eating baklava and ice cream, sight-seeing and meeting amazing people. 

4. At what point did travel become a part of your life?

I started travelling at the age of 19 right after my second year of university. My whole life I worked almost every summer and decided it was time to explore beyond what I knew. So I booked a ticket in the summer of 2014 for Europe and never looked back since! No regrets when it comes to doing the things you love. 

5. You have even taught English abroad, is this a career you would like to pursue for the long term, what motivated you towards this career path?

Once I graduated university, I knew the next step for me was to live in a different country, I set my sights on Morocco because it has always been on my bucket list. I chose teaching English because I had some experience at home and this career allows me to travel and meet amazing people every day. 

6. What and how was the process to achieving a role in teaching abroad? Which establishments have you taught at, were the experiences how you predicted it to be?

The process wasn’t too difficult. I knew most places wanted a degree as well as a teaching certificate. So I obtained a TESOL in Canada and began applying to places online. At first I thought it would be a fast and easy process to get hired, but this wasn’t the case. It took a while to navigate where and how I wanted to teach and I read various blogs of institutes that scam potential teachers so I had to be careful. In the end, Alhamdullilah I got myself a good position at a great institute. 

7. You are a Muslim female, there’s a big judgement towards Muslim female of your age travelling solo, can you elaborate on any specific experiences you struggled with explaining your decisions to your family or community regarding travelling and living alone? (if you can, please share some remarks you received from members and what you responded with)

Luckily, I am a Somali Muslim and although for some families they are hesitant with their daughters or sisters travelling. I come from a family of very strong independent women who are allowed to voice their opinions on their own matters. My mother trusts me and knows I am responsible and my father was a traveler himself at my age, (probably where I got it from), so they were happy for me and sent me off in the best way. I know other Muslim girls struggle with this but I feel times are changing and more girls are getting educated and informed so why not allow them to take their curiosities around the world? Just a thought. 

8. Do you agree there are potential dangers for females traveling independently, how do you prepare yourself to minimalize potential dangers and stay safe?

I definitely agree there can be dangers travelling alone, but I feel most people who have never travelled tend to exaggerate these dangers. I think if you are responsible and well planned, you can avoid these dangers. I always make sure wherever I am going, I will have a friend or family member at my destination. I try to avoid the dangerous parts of a city by reading blogs of other travelers and I tend not to stay out too late either. Lastly, never get too friendly with strangers, male or female. If you follow these tips you can successfully travel solo, like myself! 

9. You are a black female Muslim, you make clear of your identity by wearing the hijab. As Trump’s extreme racist and Islamophobic influence is spreading causing a rise in hate crimes, has it made you think twice before travelling alone, if so, how did you overcome these fears?

I honestly haven’t thought too much about hate crimes, I travel to Muslim countries so I don’t have to worry too much but I also travelled to Europe and it seems like most people detest Trump there as well. Collectively we can all agree to just avoid America for now, haha. 

10. Based on your experiences from teaching abroad, what differences have you noticed in students and staff from the countries you’ve taught in (their attitudes in learning, respect towards teachers and vice versa, etc.)?

I can say from my experiences, depending on the country student’s behaviors and attitudes can be similar but also very different. I felt in Morocco that students didn’t have too much respect for the teacher and unfortunately I taught rich kids, so they automatically assumed their parents would handle everything for them. It seemed to be a bit corrupt in that aspect which is unfortunate in third-world countries. 

11. Which influencers do you closely follow and keep up to date, what about them inspires you?

I don’t follow too much influencers but I really like Halima Aden. She is a fellow Somali-Muslim woman who became a popular international model. Even with that status she tends to hold her family values and morals and speak on issues concerning World Hunger and education for children in refugee camps. She inspires me to get involved in these initiatives.

12. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself probably in a different country again, haha, with the people I love and doing what I love to do, which is to help others reach their goals and become successful in their own right. 

13. What advice would you share with females aspiring to pursue travelling however, finding it challenging to overcome their fears?

I like the term, Shut up and Go! When there is a little voice inside your head that is voicing doubts, tell it to SHUT UP. Follow your gut, book that ticket, hop on that plane and don’t look back. I promise you that not only will you have one of the most memorable and amazing experiences of your life, but you will also have no regrets. Safe Travels! 

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