ERIGRAD – Reem Zeghai

Tell us about yourself (your full name, where you went to school, what you studied, hobbies, where are you from…etc.)

My name is Reem Zeghai, your friendly neighbourhood Eritrean. I’m 18 years old, an Aquarius, a retired baller & the #1 fan of dorho. I went to Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Ottawa, Canada. My extra-curricular activities throughout high school included Student Council, I was Grade Representative in Grade 10 and 11, and was Athletics Rep in Grade 12. I played basketball, rugby, volleyball, and soccer. My hobbies are reading, writing poetry, painting, watching Turkish drama’s and spending time with people I love.

How would you describe your high school experience?

I loved my highschool experience. I was very fortunate to have a supportive and loving staff by my side. Various teachers and my guidance counselor exposed me and pushed me to take a hold of different opportunities. Whether it was poetry competitions, signing up for student council, attending forums or nominating me for awards/scholarships. I went into high school as one person and came out as a very different person. They made me the woman I am today, and I’m very grateful for my time in high school. My highschool experience provided me the time to develop good memories and relationships, have a fun time with teams, and just spread good vibes and be happy.

How did being Eritrean impact your high school experience? 

Being Eritrean gave me an identity that pushed me to be a stronger, passionate and dedicated person when it came to academics, athletics and my extra-curricular commitments. Everyone knew I loved my country, and that wasn’t because of the shirt I wear that has a gemel on it and says Eritrea or the necklace with the shape of Eritrea, or the shida I wore but it’s because of the times I represented my country. It was because of the cultural fair, prom, and during class discussions, but most importantly it was through my values, my actions and how I was overall, as a human being.

If you could go back and change one thing about what you did in high school, what would it be?

There’s only one regret I have when it comes to high school and it would not going on the El Salvador trip. It was a trip that I had heard of back in Grade 7 and an experience that I would have loved and dreamt about. Other things I would go back and change include becoming more comfortable and interactive with my teachers at a younger age, better self care and pushing myself more with academics.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for Eritrean high school students?

Eritrea is home. You are Eritrean and that comes before being Canadian, American or anything else. Claim your identity, be prideful and as all Eritrean parents say “education is key”, work your butt off because you’re not only working for your own success but your parents as well. Making your parents smile ear to ear on your graduation day, truly is worth the all nighters, and the missed hang outs. So make you parents proud, make your country proud and make it so you are proud of yourself as you walk across that stage, knowing you did everything in your power to be the best you can be.

What are some of your post high school plans?

I’m attending Carleton University for a BA of Public Affairs and Policy Management. I plan to attend law school following the completion of my program. I’m working as a youth leader for the Youth Reconciliation Initiative with CRE throughout this upcoming school year. I’m looking to get involved in more organizations that focus on human rights and start an Eritrean Youth group here in Ottawa.

Now that you’ve graduated, how do you think Eritrean high school students can help Eritrea and the Eritrean people with their resources?

First and foremost, knowledge is the most important thing. Know your stuff about your country and your people. Educate others and support/help Eritrea as it works to grow. In the end, as an educated university graduate, you need to think about what can I do for Eritrea. I always say to my adey, “oh man, I want to go live in Eritrea now” and she straight up says to me “Eritrea isn’t a place where they collect garbage.” Moral of the story, become something and go back home and give back in some way or another. Eritrea can’t just serve as a family “vacation” destination in your mind, it’s much more than that and you owe Eritrea. So educate, advocate and act on your love. You’re not simply an Eritrean because you say you are, you’ve got to earn it.