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Air Force engineer Nadia is encouraging other women to 'take the roads less taken'

Source: Australian Defence Force

When Jordanian-Palestinian Nadia Al Laham began studying civil engineering at the University of Melbourne in 2013, she was one of a handful of female students taking the course in the cohort of 300.

She went on to complete her Master's degree and secured a job as an engineer and Arabic linguist at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

She hopes her decision to "take the roads less taken" by women will inspire others in the community.

Her career choices were made possible after her father immigrated from Jordan to Australia in 1991, she tells SBS Arabic24.  

Nadia Al Laham joined the RAAF in 2018.
Nadia Al Laham joined the RAAF in 2018.
Australian Defence Force

He travelled back to the Middle Eastern country a year later to tie the knot, before the couple moved to Tasmania, before settling in Melbourne.

The family moved between the two countries several times, and Ms Al Laham spent a total of five years in Jordan during her youth.

In living between Australia and Jordan, she says it was her parents' desire to ensure she had a strong connection with her cultural roots. 

"It was difficult in the beginning because we spoke both languages fluently and when we arrived at either one, we'd find the slang and words had changed. But we ended up learning about our heritage and we developed strong friendships still alive today.  

"We were affected in so many ways, but we acquired two languages."

They eventually settled permanently in Australia, where "co-ed schools were a new concept" for Ms Al Laham.  

"We were raised with an Eastern, Arabic and Islamic upbringing. It was a different way of thinking and one must adapt to his environment.

"Teachers helped us a lot and provided us with extra classes to improve our English."   

After completing her schooling, she enrolled in civil engineering, but admits she “never found it challenging”. 

Her career decision comes amid data from Engineers Australia which found that only 12 per cent of engineers in this country are women.

"There were two or three girls in a cohort of 300 students during my years of studying engineering," she says. 

"Some find my great love for engineering weird, but I never felt different to any of my classmates.  

"I liked working for the armed forces so I joined the Royal Australian Air Force after graduating from the school of engineering."

It was a posting she has cherished ever since.  

"I never found it difficult and I noticed if a person loves her job and does her best, she will have success and the respect of others.   

"Being single now, I can go wherever the job takes me, but in the future, I see family stability as a must."  

She's currently stationed at the Edinburgh base in South Australia.

The presence of her family has been an important factor in her career journey.  

My father supported me and since he owned a small electronics shop, he used to meet a lot of nice armed forces personnel and spoke with them.

She plans to put all her skills to use in humanitarian endeavours in the future, especially to help women and children doing it tough around the world.  

"My whole life I've loved helping others and care a lot for poorer countries. I want to make a positive difference in people's lives. I'm ready to volunteer in this field."  

Her message to children in the Arabic community is to "chase after their dreams" in any field.

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