Portrait of a Nation: ‘Mr Insulin’ makes sharing his goal

A difficult illness, studying full time and providing for his family meant no time for friends, and often little time to even sleep, but this determined student was not going to let any circumstances hold him back.

Getting through university while working full time was not easy but Anas Tanira was determined to succeed. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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AJMAN // Achieving success in life is not something a person gets by luck; it is a combination of hard work, overcoming obstacles and timing.

Anas Tanira, a Palestinian business development manager at 360 VUZ, worked hard at his studies at university and also took on a job to provide for his family.

He did all that while also managing diabetes, a condition he has had almost all his life.

And he did it with good humour, giving himself the nickname of Mr Insulin in defiance of the struggle the illness added to an already challenging workload.

“When you work too much, to maintain your life and studies as well, you have to miss something,” he says. “I missed having friends. Instead of having time to chill out with friends, I dedicated my time to my work, study and family.”

The 23-year-old studied mechanical engineering at the American University of Sharjah – working 16 hours a day between study and his job, the latter he took to help his parents pay the tuition fees.

“My main reason to work was to gain experience and get income because both are two faces of one coin,” he says.

The work experience served him well, he says.

“I gained customer service skills working at the university’s library, learnt how to help people reach what they want and how to deal with multinational colleagues from different backgrounds,” he says.

The income was to take responsibility for his welfare and avoid his parents taking out a loan for his fees.

“The least you can do is to feel the responsibility,” he says. “It is not easy but not impossible.”

Some days that meant Mr Tanira only got three hours sleep, working and studying the rest of the time.

“I have gone through all of the obstacles you can think of,” he says. “But look at me, I graduated and I am working now and I am still alive.

Time management was his first obstacle. “Sometimes, I used to sleep in my car when I had work in Abu Dhabi and could not go home or stay in a hotel.”

The second obstacle was his professors. “Most of them never understood that I am a person who supports his family and has responsibilities,” says Mr Tanira.

“In the beginning of each semester, I set up my calendar based on the syllabus.

“But sometimes a professor would decide to change an exam day to one when I had to work.

“Some understood that I had to work but the majority of them used to say, ‘I do not care, you signed up for a full-time university course so I am expecting you to be here like the others’. So I used to miss the job.”

The third obstacle was the diabetes.

“I have had it since I was 3 years old,” he says.

“When I am under pressure and work for hours, I forget to eat or drink something and all of sudden my sugar drops.”

Mr Tanira wants to inspire others to grab every opportunity they can. He hopes to travel and tell his story to other students, or those who would like to be, to show them it is possible to embrace challenges and overcome obstacles while balancing work and study at the same time.

Everything, he says, is doable in life, if not easy.