DAA Daily

Ms. Tharayil’s Return to the Middle East

Roy Huh, Staff Reporter, The Pawprint

Ms. Shalyn Tharayil grew up and worked as a counselor in California before counseling in an international school in Hong Kong, and now she works as the new counselor for high school students from grades 10 to 12 at DAA. Today, she has answered some questions that will hopefully help the DAA community grow familiar with her.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in between northern and southern California, and lived there my entire life until I was 31. In that time I went to school in LA, went to UCLA for undergrad, and then decided to do my masters in counseling. I worked as a highschool counselor in LA for about five years before I moved to Hong Kong for three years, and that was my first time working in an international school. I loved Hong Kong and really enjoyed living there, but I wanted a change after three years. That’s what brought me to Dubai.

That relates to my second question. What brought you to Dubai instead of any other country in the world?

I wanted to live in a city that I thought was very international and I wanted to have a different experience from what I had before. I had already lived in Asia, obviously I lived in the states before… I was actually born in Saudi Arabia, but I left when I was one so I don’t have any memory of living in the Middle East so I thought it would be kind of cool to come back. Also what was important for me was I knew that at least borders were open in Dubai. When I was living in Hong Kong my family couldn’t visit because of COVID restrictions, so I wanted to be somewhere where I knew my two brothers, my friends and my parents could still visit if they wanted. So that’s what brought me here.

And then my reason was really DAA and its counseling team because I really wanted to work within a big counseling team, and in my interview I really liked the team. I really liked the team culture and what the values were, so I knew it would be a good fit.

What inspired you to become a counselor? And would you say that you have achieved your dream?

Yes. I think I always knew I liked working with students, whether that was with young kids or teenagers. I think I always thought counseling was more about self development, but then once you become a school counselor I think you also learn a lot about colleges and academic advising; and I realized I really like that too because all of it is related to goal setting, getting you guys to better understand yourselves, and helping you guys have goals. I think sometimes when you work with students, they don’t even realize their strengths until they’re saying them out, soo I enjoy that process a lot when working with students.

How has your international experience and career shape you both as a person and as a counselor?

I think I grew a lot. Starting over in a new country by yourself, you have to learn a lot. Like everything is restructured, so you’re learning that new culture. You’re learning new logistics. You’re learning where to grocery shop and things like that that are very basic. You don’t have routines at all, and you have to kind of start from scratch. 

I told this to my students before they moved. I’d say, “It’s really important to always challenge yourself, because the only way you can grow is if you feel uncomfortable.” So for me, moving abroad –although there were definitely moments that sometimes were uncomfortable– you end up being really proud of yourself, because when you look back on the things that were maybe overwhelming or a struggle before feels super easy. And that’s how you actually become a more well-rounded, developed person. 

People are always talking about growth and about wanting to better yourself. But we don’t often think about what it actually feels like in the moment, which is often just hard or uncomfortable. So I think first of all, moving abroad made me learn so much career-wise, and I learned so much more about international admission. But I also think it translated into other sides of my life where I don’t feel as nervous about taking on new challenges because I feel proud of myself for having done this all by myself.

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