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A memorable and inspiring experience

The following guest post was written by Rahaf Safi, who served as IU’s presidential intern in 2013-14 and accompanied members of the IU delegation on the trip to Turkey. Additional biographical information on Safi is included below.

Since graduating from Indiana University in the spring, I moved to Jordan to provide support for organizations aiding Syrian refugees. When IU President McRobbie asked me to join his delegation to Turkey, I was thrilled to take a break from the hot desert to travel to Istanbul but mostly excited at the chance to reconnect with IU. As a presidential intern, I had the opportunity to prepare materials for the delegation, all while wondering how these international visits were impacting the university. Spending this past week with the IU delegation has proved an experience of its own kind.

Rahaf Safi shares a moment with IU President Michael McRobbie at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Rahaf Safi shares a moment with IU President Michael McRobbie at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

IU has a strong history of international engagement. From the number of languages offered, to the cultural centers on campus and range of study abroad experiences it makes available to students, IU makes it easy to discover the world. But what I found especially intriguing, was just how prevalent IU is in every corner of the world.

As a member of the IU delegation, I had the chance to sit in on almost every meeting in Istanbul and Ankara to see how universities partner to enhance their students’ experience by providing study abroad or student exchange opportunities. In our increasingly interconnected world, studying abroad is an essential part of a college education. While any student could attend a class or read a book on Ottoman history or modern politics in Turkey, traveling to Turkey provides a special opportunity to experience both history and modernization here through direct involvement with the culture, including visiting historical sites, dining at local restaurants and interacting with locals.

For me personally, what has impacted me the most, and caused me to grow, is learning how to interact with someone who doesn’t speak my language, running around a city feeling a little lost and learning how to appreciate my own hybrid culture. The world felt more open and less intimidating after I had the chance to study abroad in Senegal and Bosnia. That experience prepared me to move outside of the U.S. and made the organization I currently work for excited to see that I had travel experience and immersion in another country.

My favorite parts of the trip to Turkey came when I would discover, in many of our meetings, how many IU alumni were participating in different parts of Turkish society. This week, IU hosted alumni receptions both in Ankara and Turkey. The alumni graciously welcomed our presence, and it was unbelievable to see the immense support and pride they have for IU.

I especially enjoyed hearing their memories of IU, and I was excited to see how proud the Turkish alumni are of the university and of being Hoosiers. They would greet President McRobbie and First Lady Laurie McRobbie with warm and spirited smiles, sharing how thrilled they were by IU’s visit to Turkey. Their individual backgrounds and courses of study at IU were so diverse that it felt like a “mini IU” was present in Turkey. Every school on the Bloomington campus—and many from the Indianapolis campus—were represented.

Although it felt odd to introduce myself as a recent graduate, I felt inspired and hopeful about my future after interacting with many successful alumni who credited their achievements to their time at IU. The fondness of their IU education and the impact it had on their life and career made me feel energetic as I considered my own future.

My time at IU has prepared me for my work in the public sector, but it also has given me the confidence that wherever I go the door swings open, and waiting to greet me are energetic IU alumni. I am excited to learn about where President McRobbie and the delegation will go next. It has been an honor to be invited to assist with the trip, and I am grateful for the opportunity to join the IU delegation in Turkey.

Safi at an gathering of IU's Turkish alumni in Istanbul.

Safi at an gathering of IU’s Turkish alumni in Istanbul.

About Rahaf Safi:

Rahaf Safi graduated from Indiana University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and philosophy and a certificate from the Political and Civic Engagement program. She served as IU’s presidential intern in 2013-14 with a focus on initiatives related to IU’s international strategic partnerships and the School of Global and International Studies.

In 2014, she was a joint recipient of the Herman B Wells Senior Recognition Award, IU Bloomington’s top academic award for undergraduates. The award is given to an outstanding senior who has excelled academically and has established himself or herself as a leader within the IU community.

In April 2013, she was awarded a prestigious Truman Scholarship, one of only 62 U.S. students to receive an award that recognizes outstanding student leaders who are committed to public service. Deeply involved in civic activities, she founded and served as president of the IU chapter of Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to global hunger, poverty and injustice. She was an intern during the summer of 2013 with the Association of Female Jurists in Dakar, Senegal, and studied at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar. She was also an associate justice of the IU Supreme Court and represented the court on the Commission on Multicultural Understanding.

The Wells Senior Recognition Award recognizes excellence in academic achievement and excellence of contribution to the campus community through leadership and participation in campus activities. It is the campus’s top academic award for undergraduates.

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