2014-fall-banner-a-life-lived-abroad

A Life Lived Abroad

Written by Alanna Vitucci

Barb D’Elia, Ph.D., lives in Dubai, and works remotely for Northcentral University. We recently caught up with her and asked about her experience(s) living and working in the Middle East.

Barb D’Elia (Ph.D., Director of Assessment, School of Psychology)

HD:

Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?

BD:

I was born and raised in Altoona, Pennsylvania, a beautiful small town in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, situated between Pittsburgh and Penn State University.

HD:

Why did you decide to move to Middle East?

BD:

After my husband and I received our Ph.Ds.’ we returned to his home in the Middle East. Now, I’ve lived abroad almost as long as I lived in the US, and I think I enjoy the best of both worlds.

HD:

Since you moved overseas, how many countries have you lived in?

BD:

I have lived in three Middle Eastern countries.

HD:

Living overseas must have provided you with some unique career opportunities.

BD:

I feel fortunate that much of the work I’ve done in the Middle East has been meaningful for me. We were pioneers in bringing psychological services to schools, government agencies, police forces, and hospitals. We introduced the idea of mental health and counseling centers as places people could go to for help without being stigmatized. Perhaps our greatest and most risky endeavor was bringing prison reform to prisoners, staff, and even prison systems.

“After my husband and I received our Ph.Ds.’ we returned to his home in the Middle East. Now, I’ve lived abroad almost as long as I lived in the US, and I think I enjoy the best of both worlds.”

Barb D’Elia, Ph.D.

HD:

Do you have a particular area that you are passionate about?

BD:

In all of my roles, I have focused on modeling and advocating for the rights and education of women. This has included speaking out against child and spousal abuse, and managed to raise a family within a culture quite different from my own.

HD:

What keeps you overseas?

BD:

My children married here, so I think the pull of family-- three grown children, their spouses, and a lively bunch of grandchildren--is what really keeps me here.

HD:

What is it like living in Dubai?

BD:

Dubai is a thriving city which subsists on revenue not from oil, but from business and tourism. So that means we have many great tourist attractions, restaurants, and modern amenities. Interestingly, a prime goal of the leadership in Dubai is to have highly educated youth. They have dedicated funds and resources to that end.

At a recent conference on open and distance education held in Dubai, the sponsors spoke of education as a way to encourage peace in the region, and in the world. Now, who wouldn’t want that!

I’m proud to live in an area of the Middle East that is dedicated to peace and progress, and to work for a university like NCU whose mission is to educate students - on a global scale - to become expert practitioners within, and contributors to, their communities.

HD:

Tell me a little about the roles you have held at Northcentral University.

BD:

I’ve been with Northcentral for about seven years now, first as a mentor, then as Curriculum Director in the School of Psychology, and now as the Director of Assessment. Northcentral has an amazing team of very open, dynamic individuals who care so much about what they do. And, there are always ways to learn and grow professionally here at NCU. Never a dull moment! Even though it means that I work a night shift (for me) to be able to make daytime meetings with colleagues, I truly appreciate the chance to work at such a cutting edge, vibrant organization, while having the freedom to travel and enjoy the rich cultural and historical regions here.

“As a psychologist, I've learned so much through observing the differences and the similarities among people from different cultures, and through being able to apply my skills in so many vastly different milieus.”

Barb D’Elia, Ph.D.

HD:

What advice would you share with NCU students, alumni and even fellow faculty members, interested in living and working overseas?

BD:

Be ready for the experience of your life! There is so much to learn, and so many ways to grow by immersing yourself in a different culture, whether for a year or for a lifetime. As a psychologist, I've learned so much through observing the differences and the similarities among people from different cultures, and through being able to apply my skills in so many vastly different milieus. If you are ready to look beyond your own horizons, to discover more about yourself and others, and would love to make a contribution to global well-being, then doing research, working, or living overseas might be just the ticket!