‘Major’ indecision? Hashtat can help you choose the perfect uni specialty

Hashtat assists young school students to learn about and select university majors through a practical, field-based approach. (Photos: Hashtat)
Choosing the “wrong” major in university is a hefty and expensive mistake. But while the decision of a specialty is a huge one that has the potential to impact the course of your life, you are not alone in figuring out which path to pick. Family, friends, and mentors can provide advice and counsel, and Jordan even has a special enterprise specifically designed to help young people select an optimal degree focus.اضافة اعلان

Its name is Hashtat, and it consists of a training center established by computer engineer Heba Al-Awamleh, who understands that “knowing what one doesn’t want to do is just as important as knowing what one does want”, in her words.

Hashtat assists young school students to learn about and select academic university majors through a practical, field-based approach, under the guidance of university students and fresh graduates. It aims to help future generations in Jordan make informed decisions and circumvent the difficulties that come with choosing an unprofitable or simply ill-suited major.

“When I was in school, I was frequently asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and ‘What are you going to major in?’” Awamleh told Jordan News.

“These questions may have begun as a small snowball, but they soon grew into an avalanche. When I was a teen, I could only evade the questions by answering ‘engineer’. Nobody questioned my interest in a particular branch of engineering, my familiarity with the term ‘engineering’, or whether I knew what the discipline entailed,” she recalled.

“The social construct and the prestige that comes with being an engineer… I took to it like a moth to a flame,” she said.

After passing Tawjihi (Jordan’s general secondary education certificate examination), the young student started to fill out college applications. She was met with an unexpected predicament.

There were 21 different engineering categories. Making a semi-blind choice, Awamleh decided to major in computer engineering, which was a “trendy, cool major” at the time. But a few months into her freshman year, she suspected that the major might not be such a good fit. By her third year, it was very clear: computer engineering was no less than the “wrong” decision — for her.

“By then, we had started on the heavy-load coursework, and I saw how the theoretical curriculum clashed with my eagerness to explore the practicality of science,” she said. “I saw my cohort moving forward, but I was looking backwards.”

“However, I was already more than halfway through and there wasn’t a window for a major change or career shift,” the engineer recalled.

While Awamleh opted to finish out her degree program, she found herself more and more absorbed in volunteering to network with like-minded people, sharpen her skills, and explore other possibilities.

Her own experience inspired her to help out other fresh high school graduates to explore potential paths of study logically, and make informed decisions about their majors.

But when she founded Hastat, the organization’s first activity, a summer camp, did not go as planned.

Awamleh realized that she needed to do her research to hone this enterprise. She took a hiatus and decided to accept a job offer at a school to get some experience working with children. She started teaching classes to students of various ages — from first to eleventh grade. In order to get insight into how children and teenagers think and see the world. She dove all-in, spending her break time with the children and sitting with them in the cafeteria.

Meanwhile, she was conducting in-depth research on children’s training facilities and annual initiatives to determine how to create tailored programming. By the time she was ready to redirect her focus towards Hashtat, she was fully armed with insight and experience.

Awamleh re-hashed her initiative through a number of programs. She created a “Mini University” program for students between the ages of 14 and 18 to give them the opportunity to try out 24 academic university majors. The program practically simulates the majors through workshops where students create projects and discover their “tendencies, capabilities, and abilities” in medicine, engineering, science, business, IT, humanities, and educational studies, among others. Then, to help the students select appropriate university majors when decision time comes, they receive a one-on-one mentoring session at the program’s conclusion.

The popular university branch of the program is “Majors Ambassadors”.

“Hashtat recruits college students, trains them, expands their horizons, sharpens their presentation skills, and teaches them how to build a bridge between their majors and practical applications,” the founder explained. “After passing a set of trainings and challenges, we provide them with jobs as part-time instructors in practical workshops, where they train and supervise school students in the Mini University.”

Other programs, focused on different age groups, include “Project-Based Learning” and “THAT”. The THAT program, which targets students between the ages of 11 and 17, reveals their preferred learning styles, intelligence types, and personality categories while also helping them develop their concentration, observation, self-confidence, patience, brainstorming, and imagination.

Hashtat also engages with schools through career days, school trips, and training teachers who want to connect their subjects to university majors. The organization has received two grants from UNICEF and USAID, which were used to bring in tools from the US and develop curricula and methods.

While Hashtat was booming in 2019, the programming came to a sudden halt in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“I established Hashtat to ensure access to practical understanding of university majors, but that became unavailable the instant the pandemic broke,” Awamleh said.

But where some people saw only obstacles, the tenacious entrepreneur found an opportunity. “We managed to launch ten online workshops, a welcome boost during a chaotic year,” she said.

Nowadays, Hashtat is picking up the pace as COVID restrictions have been lifted. It is even expanding — the center has begun to offer career counseling sessions, student services, and consultations.

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