MENTORSHIP Program EXPERIENCE
Peace and Security Research and Policy Intern
November 2016- June 2017
A third-year undergraduate at Tulane University in New Orleans, the city that has her heart, Hanan studies neuroscience and public health. To keep well-adjusted, she balances her mostly science-leaning course load with other interests, including writing. Hanan is passionate about finding creative ways to uplift traditionally unheard voices and perspectives, and is super excited for the opportunity of mentorship from Dr. Murabit!
When my dear aunt encouraged me to look into Dr. Alaa Murabit’s internship program, I’ll be honest – the name didn’t strike a chord. After a quick Google search, though, I realized that Dr. Murabit was the same person whose TED talk I’d watched just a few months prior. (Did I mention yet that my memory is kin to Dory’s in Finding Nemo?) I spent the next few days trying to learn more about Dr. Murabit. I started at first, if I remember correctly, by reading her biography on Wikipedia and maneuvered my way around the winding roads of the Internet until I landed on her website, where I found plenty of interviews. Here was a fun-size, powerful woman who emanated confidence, grace, and compassion. Of course I wanted to learn from her!
Fast forward to a few months later, our first assignment: find research to support our position on the question, is local leadership and governance the answer to a crisis of governing credibility and the weakening authority of the nation-state? As a Neuroscience major who’d gotten used to having her nose in textbooks reading about dendrites, action potentials, and neurotransmitters in fine print, I was venturing into what for me was uncharted territory. I consulted Google and started slowly, by defining the terms. I had an intuitive sense of what a nation-state was but my familiarity with this subject matter was woefully scant. I bumbled my way through the assignment and hit “submit” with just a few minutes to spare before the deadline.
With each subsequent task, the work was no less challenging – but it seemed to get easier. I was immersed in subjects that spanned many areas – human trafficking in Canada, evolution and development of education, history of U.S.-North Korea relations, the interplay between social media and national security, Flint water crisis, the atomic bomb, it goes on – and that kept my learning constant. I pored over research articles and data sheets and editorials, and it was exciting. Sometimes I was so absorbed in the material that I’d flash my clock a quick glance and be stunned to find it’d be only an hour or two before my alarm startled me rudely awake for an 8AM class. Somehow this stuff was better than coffee at keeping my eyes from drooping over!
Between the op-eds, policy papers, speeches, and public speaking, I’ve learned a ton and a half. The constant feedback from Dr. Murabit and the other interns ensured that my learning was anything but static. The skills that I have picked up will serve me well, irrespective of what my future holds. Through this experience I’ve grow personally, too – it’s helped rekindle in me a childlike excitement for learning, my time management skills have improved by leaps and bounds, and I’ve gotten better at expressing myself both aloud and in writing.
The most rewarding facet of this experience has been getting to do it alongside the other interns that I’m thrilled to know and now call my pals. Aaron, Michael, and Maisha are radiantly intelligent and talented, not to mention kind and down-to-earth. The endless stream of WhatsApp messages and “quick” phone calls that turned into hour-long ones are signs to me that these friendships will be lifelong.
Finally, the opportunity to learn from Dr. Murabit has been a tremendous pleasure. Our relationship has come a long way since the first Skype call, when she called me out for unthinkingly asking a question that was covered in the agenda notes that we were supposed to have read, and which I actually did read (see above: Dory-like memory). Talk about a misstep and getting off on the left foot, instead of the right one! Jokes aside, I have Dr. Murabit and her tough love approach to thank again and again for accelerating my learning, growth, and confidence. To get to call Dr. Murabit – someone with a lightning mind, a heart of gold, and a soaring vision for a more equitable and sustainable future – a mentor is a privilege for which I’ll be forever grateful.