ASU literature grad embraces living ‘within the gray spaces’

By

Kristen LaRue

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Arizona State University undergraduate Dimiana “Dimi” Wassef knows where she’s going. Specifically, the English literature major knows she’ll be graduating with her bachelor’s degree this spring and that she has been accepted into graduate school at Durham University in England.

Things weren’t always this clear-cut for Wassef. The Middletown, New Jersey, native began at a community college, studying biology. She struggled.

“I felt pressured to be someone I wasn't and pressured to pursue a path in the science field and become someone I never truly wanted to be,” Wassef said.

She switched her major to English where she says it was like “the classes were meant for me.”

“I am and always have been different. My interests have always been very particular to myself and my identity, not to many others.”

After earning her Associate of Arts degree at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Arizona, Wassef transferred to ASU where her love for literature — specifically medieval and Renaissance texts — flowered. She participated in an ASU Study Abroad program in Harlaxton, U.K., where she was able to explore both literary and natural spaces: “In this program, we read the works of English classic novelists and poets and explored the landscapes associated with those authors and their works.”

The trip also stirred a latent self-confidence in Wassef, one that had just needed awakening.

“I traveled to Scotland and Switzerland independently while I was there,” she said. “Wherever I went, I looked for nature. I wanted to be one with nature and discover more about myself through the literature and the landscapes I was experiencing.”

Wassef answered some more questions about her ASU experience where she shared her love for helping other transfer students, her passion for ending animal abuse, and a tiny bit about her dystopian science fiction novel-in-progress.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field? 

Answer: I always knew that I was the kind of person who so passionately lived within the gray spaces of life. Thankfully, during my second semester of my freshman year of college, I changed my major from biology to English literature after establishing that I was no longer going to pursue any path but my own. From that point forward, I began embracing myself and who I was as a person and have found myself in the perfect position to plant seeds in those gray spaces I’ve so passionately lived within my entire life. My mom is and always has been the biggest supporter of my dreams, so after many conversations together, I was encouraged and inspired to begin doing what I love most and study the subject that lights up my soul. I instantly felt like I had found my place in the world.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I acquired the understanding of how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity around you, and that the journey is your own and you deserve to give yourself the very best. I believe in the power of positive and limitless thinking, and I believe Arizona State is a faithful supporter of that.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose Arizona State University because of their phenomenal English department. I knew I wanted to stay in the state, but what really brought me to ASU was the prestige of the English department and the opportunities that the Phoenix metropolitan area had to offer. [Professor] James Blasingame in the Department of English is someone I wanted to mention specifically, as he is an incredible professor and creative mentor who I was honored to work with in my undergraduate studies. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if my novel would be where it is today.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: As a Transfer Student Ambassador at Arizona State University, I work with students on a regular basis by helping them achieve their educational goals and overcome the challenges associated with those goals. The piece of advice I most often give is to keep pushing no matter what may try to get in your way. Never give up on yourself or your dreams because you are so much more capable than you realize. Shoot for the moon! I promise you it is worth it.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Even though I was a Tempe student, my favorite spot to go was Fletcher Library at ASU West. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the library, not to mention the comfortable booths and beautiful interior that made studying more of a luxury than a task. I would play classical music or nature soundtracks to settle in and get to work, either on schoolwork or my novel. I was able to think more clearly there, and as a writer and a student, that is something that I definitely appreciated. The Starbucks inside the library was always a wonderful addition to my studies, too.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be packing my bags and heading to Durham University to pursue a master’s in English literary studies at the U.K.’s number one school for English. I hope to continue paving my path academically and creatively as I embark on the journey of a lifetime. One day, I hope to teach medieval literature at the university level and publish fantasy novels and scholarly works.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Something that affects me on an incredibly deep level is animal abuse. I would give every last penny of that money to help put a stop to animal abuse. After removing the animals from their abusive environments and providing them with all the necessary treatment to recover, I would open up no-kill shelters all around the world that would help provide the best and most loving homes for these animals. So many sweet and loving souls live their lives in pain and turmoil. I would do anything in my power to stop that.