Growing up as a dual heritage student, I realized that we tend to fall back on easy stereotypes of the “other.” When I came to Wofford and realized there were classes about the MENA region –an area I knew nothing about– I knew I wanted to challenge my assumptions and misconceptions. After taking Arabic and Intro to Islam, I decided to continue to bridge my understanding of different cultures by joining the MENA program.
This semester, I will be finishing my MENA capstone project, but will continue my involvement with MENA studies despite this. While studying abroad in Paris in the fall, I will continue Arabic classes, and while studying in Israel next spring, I will be enrolled in a Peace and Conflict Studies program with various MENA classes. When I return to Wofford as a senior after my year abroad, I will hopefully enter into 300-level Arabic classes and take more elective MENA classes.
After graduating, I would love to combine my interests in MENA, French, and art by working with a non-profit such as UNESCO to preserve “heritage at risk” – artifacts and monuments that are at risk of destruction from conflict. I’m also interested in women’s rights and would love to work that into my career as well.
This semester, I’m taking Arabic, a Middle Eastern and North African literature class, and I’m working on my capstone project. I love Arabic and I’ve found the MENA literature class extremely interesting. By studying the literature - short stories and poetry especially - of displaced refugees and those in exile, I’ve found a depth of understanding for MENA regions that I never could have found in other courses. I’m also working on my creative capstone project –an exhibit of contemporary Tunisian art– which will be exhibited at the end of this semester.
I decided to be a part of the MENA Program because I have always been curious about the MENA region. It all started when I took Dr. Phil Dorroll’s Arabic class. I took it because I wanted to be able to communicate with my Lebanese family. I was really glad I was finally able to write and read notes and texts with my Arabic speaking grandfather. As my knowledge of the region expanded I have been motivated to continue to learn more and more about the MENA region.
I would like to be able to use the information that I am learning in my classes to create a club to teach others on campus more about the MENA region. The club would emphasize the variety of cultures and history of the Middle Eastern region. I would want to focus on the food, or dances of each of the countries and how they are different from one another.
I plan on incorporating my MENA experiences with my major and ultimately work in international business. I would like to eventually create a non-profit organization that can help young girls in the Middle East, more specifically in Lebanon. I would like to have a program that provides opportunity for girls to come together after school and/or work and be able to participate in educational aid, artistic outlets and sporting opportunities.
Currently, in Dr. Courtney Dorroll’s Ritualized Space class, I am working on a curation project of ancient pottery which was recently donated to Wofford. The class has been researching the information regarding specific pottery pieces and each student has created an Annotated Bibliography, Catalog Entry, and Object Label and at the end of the course we will present our research to the public in Wofford’s Daniel Gallery.
I decided to be a part of the MENA program because I am interested in becoming more familiar with Middle Eastern culture; a culture that is vastly misunderstood by the West. The education that the MENA Program provides helps to eliminate cultural misconceptions and counteract stereotypes that are tagged to various Middle Eastern cultures. My sense of urgency for learning about the Middle East grows stronger with its increasing relevance to the West politically, economically, and even culturally due to influx of immigrants.
As a Bonner Scholar and pre-med student, I find that cultural awareness is a crucial element of civic engagement. As a volunteer at Access Health and ARCH Ministries in Spartanburg, I work with many underserved populations in the area. Syrian refugees are here in Spartanburg, and while there are only few, I expect that the influx of Middle Eastern immigrants will increase in the future. It is important that those involved in volunteer and medical work are ready to serve diverse populations. Additionally, I intend to continue my research on Iranian culture with my Senior Capstone Project. Being half Iranian, I have a specific interest in this culture. So far I have taken political science and ethnographic approaches to my research on Iran, and I am continuing to do so by researching Iranian propaganda in my MENA 354 class.
My goal is to attend medical school, and my hope is that being enrolled in the MENA program will give me a competitive advantage. Ultimately I want to work with diverse populations, and if I decide to take Arabic through the MENA program, I will be able to serve Middle Eastern populations in a way that would never be possible without this opportunity. The most important skill this program offers, however, is cultural awareness. I can't stress how significant this will be for the career I am pursuing.