My Volunteering Experience: Volunteering as a Muslim Woman

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In my sophomore year of college, I engaged in volunteering abroad for a month as an exchange participant in Suzhou, China through AIESEC XJTLU, for the aim of volunteering for a project called ‘Special Care’, and to become a global citizen. During which I was able to work in a team of diverse cultural backgrounds to raise awareness for Autism through various campaigns, as well as, visiting schools specializing in children with ADHD and Autism. This is where my interest in neurodevelopmental disorders was first aroused, which intrigued me to read more into neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Following the completion of my volunteer experience, I’ve decided to stay for another month traveling alone all over China and staying in hostels, during which I’ve met multiple people and experienced a remarkable cultural exchange, which has greatly impacted me and has led me to develop strong intercultural competence, enabling me to adapt and perform effectively within and across cultural contexts.

My interest for the stem cell field was further piqued when my grandfather, who is a talented caricaturist, was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, which has severely impacted his life. The conditions I mentioned are considered incurable, however, since the discovery of cell reprogramming technologies, this idea has been challenged.

Owing to the reasons mentioned above, I’ve grown fond of the stem cell biology field, and chose stem cell biology as my core elective in my senior year of college. Evidently, for my graduate studies, I’ve decided on pursuing a Biotechnology Master’s program, with a stem cell biology emphasis, focusing on neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders.

My volunteering experience further continued when I decided to join AIESEC in Ain Shams University initially as a member, and later as a team leader of five members, managing a project called ‘Empower’, for the main aim of tackling UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5; Gender Equality, and 10; Reducing Inequalities. For six months, my core responsibilities were contacting various Egyptian human rights and women’s rights NGOs, for the recruitment of foreign interns to participate in a volunteer internship at such NGOs, most of which mainly address violence against women, sexual harassment, and reducing the gender enrollment gap, which includes enhancing access for girls to STEM education, as Egypt has a generally low ranking in gender equity.

As a Muslim Arab woman in the scientific field, I have witnessed how the academic environment can be somewhat unfair and biased owing to not fitting into a particular gender scheme. I am highly devoted to making a difference, which can ensure that equal chances are given to everyone to excel academically.

My most recent volunteer experience was participating as an organizer in an event arranged by AIESEC in Egypt, the Egyptian UNDP, and the Egyptian Ministry of Youth for World Youth Day in August 2018, managing 50+ participants from all parts of Egypt, who have been shaped by different values, beliefs, and experiences, to help them come together and create social media campaigns, tackling multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Currently, I am a principal nominee for the Fulbright scholarship, which has a main goal, besides educational exchange, to improve intercultural relations and promote cultural diplomacy.

As strongly noted on UCI’s website, the university’s advocacy for diversity and equity is a part of its fundamental mission, all of which are integral to achieving academic excellence. My strong commitment to diversity and equity line up with this goal and can be demonstrated by my past experiences. As an underrepresented Muslim Arab woman, I would draw on my previous experiences in order to take an effective leadership role in endorsing diversity at UCI. UCI’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity works to promote and integrate the principles of equal opportunity and inclusive excellence at UCI. I would also love to participate in the training and education programs offered by your Office of Inclusive Excellence to promote inclusion, specially the Activism and Social Justice programs offered by your Cross-Cultural Center. It would be a privilege to be an active member of a community that encourages academic excellence, as well as, diversity by joining the UCI’s graduate student body. 

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