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    From Würzburg to the world

    05/31/2022

    After her time at the University of Würzburg, alumna Hina Ghafoor went back to Pakistan. There she is investigating cultural differences, for example in dealing with psychosocial stress.

    Alumna Hina Ghafoor lived and researched in Würzburg for almost six years. Refugees and their situation were a focus of her research.
    Alumna Hina Ghafoor lived and researched in Würzburg for almost six years. Refugees and their situation were a focus of her research. (Image: privat)

    What do graduates of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) do for a living? In order to present students with different perspectives, Michaela Thiel, Managing Director of the central alumni network, interviewed selected alumni. This time it's Hina Ghafoor's turn.

    Alumna Ghafoor is a psychologist. From 2014 to 2019, she completed her doctorate at the University of Würzburg under Professor Paul Pauli and Professor Stefan Schulz at the Institute of Psychology; she currently works as an assistant professor at Riphah International University in Islamabad.

    Hina, how would you describe your job (to a non-professional)? Well, for a non-professional I am simply a teacher at the University level on one side while on the other side people know me as a clinical psychologist, who provides counseling and therapeutic help to all those suffering from mental illnesses.

    What is the core of your research? I am particularly interested in exploring the coping mechanisms at the cross-cultural levels both in the clinical and social psychology's domain. For example, earlier I conducted a study comparing German and Pakistani Chronic heart failure (CHF) patients in dealing with psychosocial stress. I examined a model saying that if a person suffering from CHF has low emotional intelligence then he or she will have poor health related quality of life. However, this is not a simple path but the person's negative metacognitions and negative coping mechanisms facilitate it. Moreover, cultural and social factors such as religion and social support from family were also focused. We found quite interesting results. Now I am extending this work comparing CHF patients in Pennsylvania and Germany. Furthermore, considering that people across the world have been migrating from under-developed to developed countries as well as dislocating within their own countries in order to increase their quality of life. I am also including the factors involved in their adjustment in a new culture, society or city.

    What is fascinating about your job? Teaching is my passion. Interacting with my students keeps my morale high. Apart from that I think that it's a two way process. Preparing the lectures and delivering it to the students will help me to have more conceptual clarity of my work. This is the only thing which is truly fascinating for me.

    How would you describe your current town Islamabad? Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. For me it's beautiful because it provides the opportunity to remain near nature, for instance the view of margalla hills. From an academic perspective, it is the hub of top ranked public and private Universities of Pakistan. Thus, it is a complete package that offers best living, opportunities for studying and job with international markets as well as attractive places for recreational activities. I agree that it is the wish of almost every Pakistani to study and do a job in Islamabad.

    You hosted a symposium for refugees in Würzburg. What was the background for that and what was the programme? As I mentioned, I am interested in exploring the coping mechanisms of individuals moving to new cultures, therefore I planned a study with refugees (unaccompanied minor refugees) especially those who had moved to Germany without their families. While planning the study and approaching the individuals directly involved in dealing with refugees, we all realized that there should be one scientific forum where all the stakeholders can sit together and share their problems as well as scientific data while working with refugees. Keeping that in mind, we (myself along with Prof. Schulz and Prof. Maack) applied for funding. The Human dynamic center (University of Würzburg) granted the funds for the interdisciplinary symposium and then we managed to organize it on 25th September 2021. I would like to mention here that I supervised the research work of Markus Schulz (student) who himself is working with refugees. He did a great job in organizing everything. The symposium was a great success where representations from the department of integration and inclusion, city of würzburg, Franz Oberthür school, Soul talk project Schweinfurt, caritas building for refugees, EAL youth welfare services of the Diakonie Würzburg, specialist advisor for asylum and migration health from the government of lower Franconia as well as from a private clinic directly involved with refugees participated actively in the symposium. Moreover, myself along with my fellow researchers from University of Freiburg, University of Köln, and Comprehensive heart failure center Würzburg presented their research work. All in all it was successful and we are planning to conduct a follow-up symposium in the future.

    What is your most-liked memory of your study time in Würzburg? There are many memories of my study time in Würzburg however I would like to mention two of them. Once it happened that in exchange of money from the bank, the employee there by mistake gave me a few extra euros than the actual amount. When I went back to return her that amount she thanked me and cross checked my credentials, my address. I did not get why she was asking but the very next day when I received a card and flowers as a token of thanks, I felt truly amazed and happy. The second one is related to my visit to a beauty salon. Usually the music is being played in the salons according to the choice of the worker, not the customer. Interestingly, when I was given services, the employee there changed the music and turned on arabic songs (seeing my Pakistani attire). That was a lovely gesture and I always have a big smile on my face whenever I remember it. So all those memories, where I have great interactions with people living in Würzburg, whenever people recognized me there etc are my most liked memories while staying in Würzburg Germany.

    Thank you very much and kind regards.

    You are not yet a member of the university network yourself? Then you are cordially invited to register at www.alumni.uni-wuerzburg.de! Here you will also find the portraits of JMU alumni and alumnae published so far.

    By Michaela Thiel / Gunnar Bartsch

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