Jumping from academic probation to a near A-grade in just one semester, Dimah Shamma’s story is one of success. Studying Marketing at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), Shamma is happy. But this was not always the case. What is the secret behind her rapid transformation? We met up with her over coffee, though she insisted on drinking lemon and mint juice. She says she doesn’t need caffeine.
Full of excitement to be arriving at university for the first time last year, Shamma found herself overwhelmed by her new-found freedom. “At first, I was a bit attentive, but then afterwards I started skipping a lot of classes,” she says, admitting she spent a lot of time “going out”.
Shamma remembers the first time she went out for shisha in Dubai. She didn’t smoke, but she says it was
socialising with friends: “It was nice. I forgot about the time and it was 11pm to 11.30pm—almost curfew. So my dad calls and my parents don’t often call, so I was very nervous.” Out with friends and dangerously close to AUS curfew, her dad wasn’t impressed with her behaviour. Shamma adds: “I was scared because I really can’t lie to my parents.”
This experience sums up Shamma’s first semester. Starting the year with four courses (roughly 14 credits), Shamma dropped two classes, down to a lack of dedication to her studies. Scoring a final mark of 1.7 GPA, the minimum score needed for a C- or pass grade, Shamma was put on academic probation. This is where a student with less than ‘good academic standing’ (less than 2.0 GPA), is given extra support. Any student who cannot get above this score in their second (or consecutive semester) is academically dismissed.
Meeting her probation officer proved to be the foundation of Shamma’s current success. “She told me at some point that she thought that I was a bit depressed,” she says.
Confiding in someone outside her family helped Shamma immensely, as she struggled to deal with the pressures of wanting to please her family and keep her scholarship.
During her second semester, Shamma was encouraged to aim for the probation pass rate (2.0 GPA). Wanting to do even better, Shamma worked hard and began putting together her own study schedule. “I also had an alternative schedule if the first one didn’t work out or if I got distracted,” she adds proudly. This meant even friendly distractions were accounted for, with Shamma returning to the dorms strictly by 4.30pm to study.
Shamma scored a total GPA of 3.6 for the semester: one of the highest grades for Marketing majors in her year. “I literally gasped and I started crying,” she says. Now in her second year at AUS, Shamma currently has an overall GPA of 3.2, having also taken summer classes to pull her overall grade up. Shamma is hoping to do even better this year. Looking to the future, she hopes to get a master’s degree in England, and one day, manage her father’s school in Abu Dhabi.