January 28, 2021

Meet Our Jordanian Foreign Student Grantees: Cohort 2020-2021

As the Jordanian cohort of 2020 finally settle down in the United States after a semester of social distancing and distance learning, we introduce our bright eight grantees in the first part of a series.

As we move forward in the year of 2021, The Fulbright Commission in Jordan wanted to feature its eight outstanding Jordanian youths who aptly won the Jordanian Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship to pursue their Master’s degree in the United States as part of the 2020 cohort. 

We believe they will enrich the world of Educational and Cultural exchange between Jordan and the United States, and influence excellence and diversity, each in their own special way. All eight Fulbright students were chosen by the program for their academic excellence, maturity and promising potential. Furthermore, they share the commitment to make the world a more connected, more caring, and more prosperous place.

The year 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, especially students. In the fall of 2020, our eight grantees started their Master’s degree virtually in a time they were supposed to experience cultural and educational exchange firsthand. However, this didn’t make it any less of an extraordinary experience for them. And the Commission recognizes their patience and resilience during these unprecedented times. 

As the Commission monitored the situation closely, and following travel and safety guidelines, we were glad to see our grantees prepare to travel to the US and embark on this new chapter in their lives. To celebrate the start of their program in the US this Spring semester, we interviewed our students and asked them several questions as a way to officially introduce their cohort. 

Ahmad Al-Dafar, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Architecture at Syracuse University, when asked about what motivated him to apply for the Fulbright program, said: “With endless passion and curiosity to grow in the field of Architecture in one of the most pioneering institutions in the US, Fulbright was such a prestigious scholarship to support my endeavor.” Sumaya El-Mousa, majoring in Language Learners at Vanderbilt University, on her part, expresses:

“I have always had a thirst for learning and new experiences, and I knew I wanted to pursue higher education to improve my skills and marketability. So when I heard about the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, it was the perfect opportunity to get my Master's degree, experience a new country, and meet and work with fascinating people from around the world.”

However, as 2020 deprived our grantees of what they expected to accomplish during their exchange the first few months, they all found a silver lining in such a challenging start to their academic journey. Lisa Shahin, an Environment and Natural Resources student at Ohio State University, remarks when asked about what has the experience of being part of the pandemic cohort taught her: “Being part of the pandemic cohort turned out to be a blessing in disguise, I’ve become closer to my fellow Jordanian cohort members, remained close to family during these difficult times, and it proved to me that I’m stronger than I thought I was.” Likewise, Rani Zaid-Kaylani, an Architecture student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, says:

“Going through this experience made us more resilient, and brought us closer together as a cohort. Joining classes and working with teams from halfway across the world certainly comes with many challenges.”

On the other hand, Rahmeh Abu Shweimeh, majoring in Global Health at the University of Washington, expresses how this experience was an eye-opener: “Any status quo is subject to change, and the sooner you recognize and accept these changes, the sooner you will be able to develop or find the needed tools to adapt. Nothing is guaranteed!”

Even though the Fulbright pre-doctorate students completed their first semester virtually, each student is grateful for this experience. Nour Gharaibeh, who is currently an Integrated Innovation for Products & Services student at Carnegie Mellon University learned quite a lot from this experience, and what she values the most from this experience is her ability to learn “flexibility and creativeness.” she adds “It was necessary to immediately accept the new norms and make the best out of it.” Dina Tahamouqa, majoring in Arts Administration at Indiana University, also adds “This experience teaches me to be more flexible, adaptable, and more creative with the ways that I learn or approach learning.”

And when Rawda al-Hamadneh, a Sport Management student at Niagara University, is asked about the year 2020, she says: “ I never hold grudges to the negative things I have to live  or a ‘bad’ year I have to go through. Giving up is not an option for me and going through hard times is a mere fact, but overcoming it is not impossible - this word does not exist in my dictionary.” She continues: “ I am thankful to this pandemic as I was able to work out more unlike the expectations and as the proverb goes ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.” 

Or as Lisa Shahin shared beautifuly when asked about her favorite quote by Jimmy Dean

“You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails to always reach your destination.”

As our grantees chose to see the new year with hope, we bid farewell to our students who departed to their host universities to resume their Master’s degree in person in the United States, and wish them the best of luck as they pursue their goals and represent our beloved Jordan. 

In future posts, we will be highlighting their experiences on our website, as well as on our Facebook and Instagram page.

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