Through her high school and undergraduate years in Egypt, Marie studied her television for examples of role models and people who made a difference in the world. "I would like to be good like them," she told herself. "I will do my best to do good."
Now, exactly 20 years later, she is a 38-year-old wife and mother still studying pursuing that dream. Her extensive collegiate background is all to fulfill her dream of bringing home a doctorate from an American school and fully grasping the English language. She is starting by pursuing a master's degree in international studies at UConn. Then she is determined to get her doctorate in the United States.
"I don't like to get my Ph.D. at home. You only get it once, one Ph.D. in your life," she said with passion. "No one can know everything, but you need to know the keys to know the information. That's what I'm looking for, the keys."
Marie, whose bronze complexion is complemented by the mustard, olive green and brick red veil that hides all but her smiling face, speaks halting English and has a distinct accent. At times she struggles for the right word and gets frustrated when translations aren't exactly clear, but knowing English means more to her than anyone will know.
Marie's name has been changed for this story because she fears that hostility awaits her in Egypt. She says that many of her colleagues there are bitter about her education and have belittled her for it, which makes her feel uncomfortable about exposing her journey toward an American doctorate.
She entered Egypt's Menoufia University straight out of high school in 1988 and remained at the school for 18 years. She completed a Master's of Business Administration and Master's of Commercial Science along the way, but she felt she was never truly getting the education she dreamed of.
The importance of learning English became clear to her when she realized the Menoufia faculty was not able to communicate with visitors because they didn't know any language other than Arabic.
"Many of our students find English is necessary, even if they plan to go back [to their native countries]," said Anne Dauphin, an instructor at the University of Connecticut American English Language Institute. "They study it because they need it to find good jobs."
English has increasingly become a dominant language globally, Dauphin said, but she has seen a surge in the last 10 years of people who need the language to succeed in non-English-speaking countries.
Marie's introduction to English began in elementary school, but it was like the sometimes cursory introductions to Spanish or French offered in America, she said. She hadn't spoken English at all until the year 2000 and has studied and practiced the language for eight years to get to the point she's at today, still asking the meaning and usage of common, everyday words.
While at Menoufia, she paid 10,000 Egyptian pounds -- about $1,854 -- for classes in reading and writing in English, but she did not feel that was enough. She wanted to attend school in the United States to immerse herself in the English language and fully grasp every aspect of reading, speaking and writing, instead of just learning from books, as she would in Egypt.