Photography: Dina Adel
Report: Noor Ramadan
Kawthar Al-Arab and Marwa Hijji, two graduates of the American Studies program, were welcomed back to the ASC on Wednesday 30 November 2011 to give a talk about their experiences in the United States.
Kawthar began her “My MEPI-LDF Experience” presentation by explaining more about the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Program that she undertook in March – June 2010. Her time in the United States was divided between Syracuse University in New York and her internships at Mobilizing America’s Youth and the American-Arab Discrimination Committee in Washington D.C.
Within her presentation, Kawthar shared pictures of her visit to Niagara Falls and her meeting with current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the first Muslim in Congress, Keith Ellison, along with stories of various extracurricular activities she took part in, including the Middle East Festival at Syracuse University. Looking back on her experience in the United States, Kawthar felt that the most difficult part was getting used to the cultural differences between Bahrain and America while some of the benefits were meeting other MEPI fellows and doing two internships as opposed to one.
Marwa took over the talk from Kawthar to share more about her experience in 2010/2011 at Oberlin College, Ohio, where she took part in the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program. She described herself as person who loves to travel, and therefore focused more on the social aspect of her experience in the US during her presentation. Not only did she attend her first football game, but she also got the chance to hold a small baby alligator and to try out new types of food, such as Gumbo and Beignet.
Marwa felt that the program helped her learn a lot about her own personality; she is now more patient and takes things one day at a time. Despite the difficulty she faced in dealing with American stereotypes of the Middle East (it came as a shock to some that she drove a car in Bahrain and actually did not own a camel!), her advice to the students was to remember that, although an experience may not be easy, a person will always learn more from it.
The talk was wrapped up with an informal discussion as the graduates answered questions from students who wanted to learn more about the MEPI and FLTA programs.