International Students House
Student Life

Finding happiness in the journey of life

As part of its mission, ISH provides accommodation and a community for students that have been awarded scholarships at our partnering universities. This gives students an opportunity to live in a prime location in Central London while developing the skills, knowledge and connections they need to make a positive contribution to their communities back home. On the occasion of the welcome reception for the 2019/20 scholars, one of the residents, Mohammed Elkhatib shared this heartfelt speech to his fellow scholars:

Good Evening everyone.

I stand here before you, the 2018 Geoffrey Copland scholar. It was quite tedious for me to find the right words to start my speech with. However, I recently read about a mechanism that controls and maintains a constant level of happiness in our bodies, which is known as “hedonic adaptation”. It is obvious that a constant level of happiness is not always an option for us, although inevitably each one of us wants to achieve a high everlasting level of happiness. Including me.

A pivotal moment that changed my life and caused my level of happiness to reach a peak, was when I received my scholarship letter. It was at this moment that I was willing to take the risk and break the cycle of routine, all in the name of acquiring the constant level of happiness I believed I deserved.

The story started when I received my senior year result where I did not perform well in High School due to many reasons related to the situation in my country, Palestine. This limited my options in choosing a career path and gaining acceptance at university. Things were unclear at this point in time. However, this hurdle was planned by my destiny and it seems that what destiny plans for us, has a far greater impact on our paths in life. All it needed was just a little more patience. It was this knockdown that allowed me to take the long journey towards achieving my passion to be an Engineer. From gaining a college diploma to working full time whilst studying my undergraduate degree, I managed to gain a distinction In Electrical Engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza, Palestine.

However, this didn’t seem to be enough for me. I was always looking for the next thing. With this come challenges, as living in my country means that one has to abandon any hope of exploring the world to pursue your dreams, due to travel restrictions. And to make things even harder was that I fell in love with someone from the UK who I couldn’t reach, as the distance between me and her was a closed border.

I did not want to allow these restrictions to defeat me where I would end up as another story stuck between the border and my goals. So instead I decided to fight back, and I found that the weapon I needed to do so, was a scholarship. Through this, I would be able to explore the world beyond Palestine, to pursue my dream of obtaining a master’s as well as meet my wife, Alina. And here I stand before you a year on, having achieved both these goals.

 If anyone was to hear of the achievements that I accomplished, they would think I am the luckiest or happiest guy on earth. I would, by all means, agree with them as with each achievement adrenaline would run through my body. But this wouldn’t last more than 50 seconds. After each achievement or milestone, I would question myself, so what next? And the hole inside my heart would deepen.

But after contemplating, I realised that whilst living here at ISH, it is not the achievements that cause happiness but instead, happiness has always been there, embedded in the details of the story. It is in the laughter, friendships, travelling and communicating with people from all walks of life that define happiness. And I quote “The journey is what brings us happiness, not the destination”.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Geoffrey Copland whom this would not have been possible without. I am forever indebted to him until the end of my life. I would also like to express my gratitude to ISH and all the staff who make this place home. I would like to thank the CEO, Martin who is the captain of the ISH ship and with him, we are assured that we can sail through the year safely.  Also, a huge level of love and appreciation to Dr Sharon Bolton who is the mother of scholars whom you can always rely on. I would like to thank every member in the ISH chain who link together to support each one of us. I would also like to thank my family for their endless support and my wife for standing by me through this journey.

And finally, my message to my fellow ISH scholars. Even though excelling academically is of great importance, do not let this be at the expense of forming relations with others. Take every opportunity, attend each event to meet new people from countries that you may not have even heard. ISH is the place where there are no boundaries in making relations for when you leave here you will realise that your peak of happiness was in these moments, in these long-lasting friendships and each day at ISH you will build a memory that you never would have anticipated.

I stand here proudly as an ISH scholar, one year on, feeling privileged to be a part of the ISH family.


We take pride in all the inspirational scholars at ISH!


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