“I broke the rules of my society to achieve my dreams, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
In the midst of all the pints of beer, the old guys and the drunk bankers; there she was, sitting with her friends. A group of Imperial College students on a high table in the middle of the pub, their fancy clothes and their posh attitudes setting them apart from everyone else.
But even among a group that stands out, she is clearly different.
Her loud distinctive laugh rang across the pub, as she brushed hair away from her piercing eyes.
“I’ve lived alone for several years in Dubai, I was the first in my family to do that. I left my home, my family and friends, moved to another city to pursue my career in finance. Three years later I moved to London, and I’ll keep moving and breaking boundaries until I get what I want,” she told me, as she drank her little pink cocktail.
Heba Sebai, 26 and single, was how she casually introduced herself, after I heard her familiar accent and went over to say hi. A 26 year old Master student, studying for a degree in Finance at Imperial Collage London, she has one of these faces that immediately feels familiar, that you’re drawn to straight away. The moment she speaks you feel as if you’ve known her for ages.
I am an Egyptian, so I recognised her name and asked about her nationality.
“Well, I am Egyptian,” she replied, “But I’ve lived in so many places now, and Egypt has changed so much, I don’t know if you can call me your typical Egyptian.”
As we sat at the bar, Heba told me of how her heart breaks when she watches the news, and how she tried to follow the events in Egypt until it just became too much for her.
“I prefer to remember the country I grew up in as a kid, my childhood memories of home. I lived in one of those old buildings by the Nile, it had the most amazing British architecture on the outside. I woke up every day, open the blinds and there it was, the sun, the Nile, and some old noisy street vendor.” She stops talking, as if she were drawing a picture in her mind.
“I just miss home, but you know what they say, once you leave you can never go back, your memories are all you have.”
“I hate all the political jargon and I definitely hate hearing the question ‘How is the situation in Egypt?’ just watch the news if you want to know, I’m here with you how would I know?” She laughs as she tells me about the people who give her a pity look when they find out she’s Egyptian.
Heba seemingly defies all stereotypes.
“My biggest accomplishment, well that is a tough question… mmm… I think my biggest accomplishment is yet to come, but I’m looking forward to it, for now I’m just building up the momentum.”
At the age of 21 she travelled across the world to work for Deutsche Bank, the global banking and financial global hub. But that clearly wasn’t enough, so two years later she took another leap of faith and moved to London to pass another milestone.
“Life is simple: it’s a series of risks that you have to take, to make it worth living. Graduating high school as top of my class, check, being the top honor student of both of my majors, check, working for a global bank, check, and now it’s just another challenge.” Heba spoke with a sudden determination now, as if she’d been possessed by a different person.
“What about your personal life?” I asked her as we walked towards the door to leave.
“Oh god, you remind me of my grandma,” and she gave one last high-pitched laugh.
“Well, let’s put it this way, I am a single independent woman, and currently in a relationship with my Masters degree.”
Reporting by Yasmine Dinana.
Behind the Story : It was one of those nights when I went out fetching for a story for Met Down the Pub, did my research found some good pubs in Central London, and a tube ride later I was there.
The pub was loud, but her laugh was louder. I can remember clearly her high pitched laugh and her familiar accent that made the steps I took walking towards her so much easier than most of my other endeavors for the stories I got for the website.
With a hello and some Arabic words we started the conversation, and now I have a story and she has an article about her when you Google her name.