Lara, Arabic

Lara is an alumna of the 2021 Virtual NSLI-Y Arabic program and the 2022 NSLI-Y Arabic Program in Jordan. Lara was a participant in the U.S. Senate Youth Program. Currently, Lara studies global affairs at Yale University and hopes to have a career advocating for others through diplomacy.

As an American with Nubian-Egyptian roots, Lara initially struggled to understand her identity. Her Blackness made her different from other Arabs and her Arab heritage made her feel distant from other members of the Black community. Feeling a strong desire to understand her heritage, she researched more about her family’s history and discovered ways to improve her Arabic skills. In her journey to piece together different parts of her identity, Lara came across the NSLI-Y program. Lara participated in the Virtual NSLI-Y Arabic program in 2021. Wanting to travel to an Arabic-speaking country, she reapplied the next year and participated in the 2022 NSLI-Y Arabic program in Jordan. ​

Lara found that the program helped her develop her identity; on her own for the first time, she was better able to understand her strengths and weaknesses and gained valuable skills that she believes will aid her in her professional and academic endeavors. Whether it was dinner conversations with her host family about the Jordanian educational system or Dabke dancing in the Wadi Rum desert, Lara got to interact with people who are different from her and learn about their lived experiences. She notes that, “Being immersed in a new environment taught me the importance of learning from those who are different from me, enhanced my problem-solving skills, and made me a better communicator. […] Going forward in my professional career, a lot of the opportunities I will receive will depend on who I talk to and who I am able to connect […] to be able to have this opportunity where I was forced to connect with people, discover something that we both had in common.” Lara also embraced the intersectionality of her identities while on program, and through learning to embrace herself as an American, Arab, and Black woman, she helps others who come from similar backgrounds. ​

Lara riding on a camel

Lara’s NSLI-Y experience inspired in her a desire to seek out opportunities to learn from experiences. Combined with her interest in history and politics, this newfound interest in diplomacy led her to apply for the US Senate Youth Program. The US Senate Youth Program brings two student leaders from each state to Washington DC to experience the inner workings of the government firsthand. Lara was chosen to represent Virginia in 2023 and believes that the experience was life-changing, commenting that “Every one of our speakers was transparent with us about the issues they hope our generation will be brave enough to tackle and each enriched us with career and life advice. Although I have lived in the suburbs of Washington, DC for my whole life, this experience was the first time that I felt really exposed to the inner workings of politics, which was largely due to the vast amount of phenomenal speakers and people that I met … Additionally, by learning from the other student delegates, we challenged ourselves to think more deeply about the​ societal issues we work so passionately to solve. Embracing our diversity of backgrounds and experiences allowed us to learn about the complexities of our nation’s biggest issues.” From meeting with Supreme Court Justices and Senators and introducing Ambassador Derek Hogan at the US Institute of Peace, Lara found herself continuously inspired to try to create positive change in her community. Lara will continue to explore her interest in diplomacy as she studies global affairs at Yale University and hopes to have a career advocating for others through diplomacy.​