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Tunisian Students Reflect on Their Time in Austin

KUT News

For the past two weeks, KUT News has hosted two students from Tunisia: Salma Abed, 22, and Khaoula Nagati, 23.

Traveling from Tunsia, to Washington D.C., to Austin and back again, Abed and Nagati are part of a traveling delegation of Tunisian journalism students, sponsored by the International Center for Journalists.

Abed graduated from the Institute of Press and Information Sciences in June 2011, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in electronic journalism. Nagati also graduated from the Institute of Press and Information Sciences.  

We asked Abed and Nagati to describe their experiences in Austin. They accompanied reporters from KUT on a preview of a futuristic design exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus, a event announcing a Formula 1-related scholarship program for the Del Valle school district, and an Austin Police press conference regarding pedestrian fatalities. Their visit also came as protests rocked the Middle East, tied in part to an inflammatory anti-Muslim film, and a bomb hoax on the UT campus evacuated the KUT newsroom.

“Someone asked me on Facebook … ‘What’s your reaction about the movie?,” Abed told KUT in an interview with Morning Edition host Jennifer Stayton. “I said, ‘nothing. I can’t do anything, I’m here for an internship, and I have my work.’ … She said, ‘You are a journalist, you should express your opinion, you should express the opinion of Muslim people.’ I expressed my opinion because I think that this movie, it’s unacceptable for me. I expressed my opinion, but with a peaceful reaction. It’s not necessary to express my opinion by violence. It’s not necessary.”

“Not all the people in Tunisia are responsible for what happened there the last weeks in Tunisia, especially in the embassy there,” Nagati says. “People in Tunisia are very intelligent, they don’t like aggressive and violent revolution. There are many groups of [political parties] there, and some extremist people are responsible for what happened. All of Tunisia’s people are not responsible for what happened.”

Here are some more of their thoughts, with slight edits for clarity.

Salma Abed:

My first moments in the United States and especially in Washington D.C. are unforgettable: Different language, different habits and especially different thinking – it is another world for me!

What I feel in common with Americans is how they are addicted to technology. Yes, we are addicted also, but we have less opportunities to use it. But here there are a lot of opportunities; here there is the Apple company, which I like.  

These experiences outside the building, made me sure that there are no difference between the method of producing in Tunisia and here. But the big difference is all programs here are recorded with the exception for the live show if there is an important event. But in Tunisia all the programs are live shows.

Khaoula Nagati:

It's my first time in America. I was impressed since the plane flew over America. What is all this greenery in this land? I did not know that America contains all these green spaces.

I was struck by the routine in the streets here  … It is almost impossible to find a driver, or someone even on foot, violate the red light.  In Tunisia often get these things resulted in road accidents.

I was surprised how attached people are to music in Austin. And frankly, the music that I listened to with them was very beautiful.

I enjoyed a lot during my time in the United States. Now my ideas became clearer than ever of the American people and the United States.

Khaoula Nagati can be reached at khaoulanagati at Salma Abed can be reached at  salma3bed at 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.