2020 in review: UAE residents turn their lives around amid pandemic

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Dubai: As 2020 comes to a close, we have seen and heard a number of sordid stories of people’s personal struggles, financial losses — thanks to the negative impact of the pandemic — not just here in the UAE, but worldwide.

But some UAE expats have turned the grim scenario of the pandemic to their advantage. Whether it is starting afresh with new opportunities or pursuing a new passion — these expats have taken a positive route to stay happy despite the challenges they faced over the last 12 months. As an unusually tough year comes to a close, it is indeed heartening to follow the journey of these expats. Indian expat Sakina Feroz, 28 for one, did not cry over lost opportunities amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, she took a big decision — to change her career path — as the pandemic taught her to look for stability in the future.

Sakina Feroz

“I worked in the Public Relations (PR) industry for five years. While I loved it for most parts, towards the end, I was completely exhausted. The working hours were long with no set time. Every day, I wondered what would happen if I decided to change my field. It was something I never dared to do before as I had studied mass communication and this is what I wanted to pursue after my university days. However, when COVID-19 hit, I eventually took a step back and moved from working at an agency to doing freelance projects in PR and virtual events. I came across an opportunity to work as a teacher and all I told myself was: Why not! My mother too did the same. She had turned a school teacher after working as a fashion designer for long. I have taken this leap of faith, but that is what the pandemic is doing. It has pushed everyone to get out of their comfort zones and become humble.”

Armenian expatriate, Lilit Tshughuryan, 35, a career woman and achiever in her own rights, decided to dive deep despite the pandemic. Instead of wallowing in miseries, she faced the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak and turned the pandemic to her advantage.

Lilit, with 12 years of expertise in business management, marketing, sales training and lecturing is also an award-winning career-woman. She said the pandemic has humbled her just like it has done to so many people. “It has impacted the way we live, work and think. Days in lockdown were an opportunity for me to rethink the situation, exploring the business environment and discovering most of what was available in the UAE.”

“In September 2019, I was invited to Dubai to lead the marketing department at an aviation training institute. I worked hard and created a strong marketing and brand awareness for the institute. In fact, the company was recognised as the best in the sector by six local and international awards in just the first year of me entering the company.”

Then 2020 came, she said. After working for a year, Lilit decided to start her own business as she saw an opportunity there. She is investing big money into the education sector as she sees potential here. “As a woman, this is a challenge in itself, but COVID-19 has taught me that there is no time to waste. If you want something go for it. There is no time to brood, to wallow in misery and sit back at home, worrying about your future. Instead, spring to action and create something positive around you and make something good happen.”

“Despite the ongoing situation, countries around the world are starting to rise up, especially the UAE. Its residents should do same, think positive and rise up.”

Emirati Abdullah Al Muhaisen, 21, has done just that. He has tied up with his friend, Nishika Kulkarni, 21, to launch an Indo-Arab streetwear label. “Anomaly was born during COVID-19 because we realised that while the world went still, we wanted to keep ourselves going. During the national sterilisation drive, there was a lot of time for us to think. And we knew we had passions beyond our college studies,” explained Abdullah.

Emirati Abdullah Al Muhaisen has tied up with his friend, Nishika Kulkarni, to launch an Indo-Arab streetwear label.
Image Credit: Supplied

He said during quarantine, his friends took courses in fashion designing and social media marketing and soon their very own streetwear label was born!

Nishika said: “Since both of us were in Canada during the lockdown, we felt disconnected from our homes. We took this opportunity to teach each other our respective skill-sets while creating our fashion-forward brand that stands for Unfiltered, Unapologetic and Unconventional expression through Indo-Arab fashion for global trendsetters.”

Abdullah said: “We are extremely passionate about self-exploration and felt like we needed to connect to something else. We managed to make the best out of a difficult situation,” said Abdullah.

Indian Arwa Jamnagarwala, 27, has taken the fashion route too in the midst of the pandemic. “It is all about how you perceive things. If you see a partially filled glass of water as half-full then you are going the positive way, but if you see it as half-empty, you will always feel deprived and be immersed in self-pity.”

Indian Arwa Jamnagarwala has taken the fashion route in the midst of the pandemic to make the best possible use of her time..
Image Credit: Supplied

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Arwa said with 2021 coming up, there is need for everyone to rise up and think positive. “Since I graduated, I’ve been working as a freelance fashion designer. I’ve always wanted to pursue my dream of starting my own fashion brand. At the start of 2020, I was about to launch my own business, but COVID-19 hit us hard. I took that as an opportunity to build my brand Arooq — a fashion brand for luxury hand-crafted shoes and ready-to-wear clothing — and was able to create a buzz through social media. By November, I had a pre-launch at Academy Park and due to the overwhelming response, I launched my baby at Dubai Shopping Festival, outside the Box in Burj Park.