5 Year Anniversary YFL- Dalal’s Story

20 min readSep 7, 2023

August 2017

This month I had a chance to see the total solar eclipse. While the whole world was watching, a cameraman was watching, too.

I know this because of that moment when I went viral in the news and friends and classmates recognized me.

It was also International Orientation Week, where this very photo was on the top of the weekly email newsletter the International Services Office circulates to students. Famous already!

One of the first get-togethers with my host family.

I cannot forget the first time I entered the Wildcats Stadium, sat in the Zona Zoo and screamed and chanted for the our team.

September 2017

My first road trip, to Sedona, Devils’ Bridge . Great day to go hiking (and take selfies) with some friends.

October 2017

Outside of classes, I had time for a little get together with friends, two other Fulbrighters from Pakistan and Mongolia.

November 2017

Dressing up for the All Souls Procession-a traditional, annual march where people in Tucson celebrate the memory of their beloved ones. Alongside the fancy face- painting, I also wrote a story for my reporting class.

I celebrated my first Thanksgiving with my host family:

December 2017

Since I didn’t go home during winter break, I celebrated Christmas holidays with friends and residents at my housing complex:

January 2018

After a rocking, rollercoaster trip in Vegas to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I came back to Tucson with my friends to drive up to Utah. We drove along the east coast of the state to play with the snow!

In Utah, I explored the beauty and gorgeous landscapes of Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon National Parks. While the trip was short, it was full of memories and songs that shall forever live with me.

On this trip I have come to realize my passion for hiking and free climbing. It’s never about the journey, but rather the destinations and perspectives! And it never does look the same from the top- trust me. I will always be in pursuit of adventures, perspectives, and more road trips to satiate my hunger for new challenges.

Snow time in Arches National Park

Now that the semester has begun, I’ve been occupied with a lot of classes and assignments, but I am also enjoying my time singing. I joined the University Community Choir. We are having a blast singing the finest musical pieces, and in April we will have a concert.

February 2017

I had the chance to explore Coronoda National Forest on Mt. Lemmon. I had a fun day with my roommate and her friends.

March 2018

As part of the University of Arizona Diversity and Inclusiveness Symposium, the International Services Office organized an international storytelling event titled “Global Voices.” A group of students, staff and scholars, from different countries and walks of life, came together to tell their stories.

I had a blast being a storyteller and talking to the UA community about women in the Palestinian Territories, being a vegan, being a Muslim, why I came to the States, and what people don’t know about my country.

Over the course of almost two hours, I took turns with other participants addressing different small group audiences. This was indeed a rewarding and illuminating experience. Having people address you about certain topics says a lot about individuals who still think that being a vegan Muslim is a matter of “how so?”

Here I am speaking to one of the groups:

And here I am posing with other participants at the end of the session:

April 2018

April has been a roller coaster, filled with trips, schooling and “outing- and –abouting” all the way. Here’s a quick glimpse at my life this month:

Fulbright Enrichment Seminar:

April kicked off with my trip to Washington D.C. for my Enrichment Seminar about Federalism. The Enrichment Seminar gave me the opportunity to visit D.C. for the very first time. I had a blast connecting with fellow Fulbrighters and meeting beautiful minds from over 60 countries. Diversity, unity and excellence came together to work toward creating a better world for us all.

The beauty of the cherry blossoms along with the history of the city filled me with joy. I wish I could have stayed longer to get to see more, but time flies fast and only vibrant memories live on.

Fulbright Scholars posing in front of the Supreme Court in D.C. on their city tour (left). Posing with fellow Fulbrighters from the Palestinian Territories at the Enrichment Seminar in D.C. in April (right)

University of Arizona Community Choir

For the past few months this spring, I have been singing with the University of Arizona Community Choir and on April 15, we took the stage to sing music in Spanish and English, For the record, I don’t even speak Spanish, but somehow blew it away with my fellow sopranos!

Posing with my host mother- left- and other alto singers before taking the stage to sing

Here’s an article about our choir: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2018/04/a-music-of-the-americas

Hike to Seven Falls, Sabino Canyon

And of course, a trip to nature on a Sunday morning is all I would need before I hit the road for another busy week.

SPJ Region Conference

The last weekend has been tremendously enlightening. As a member of the Society of Professional Journalists chapter in my school and along with three colleagues of mine, we attended the SPJ Regional Conference in Los Angeles.

The conference, which aims at navigating the future of journalism, allowed us the chance to meet with expert journalists and explore different topic in journalism as well as connect with other attendees who came from different media outlets and schools in the U.S.

Posing with long time AP Court Reporter Linda Deutsch (left). Enjoying my time at Santa Monica Beach after the conference (right).

May 2018

School is over now. The past month has literally been a hustle, but one that I enjoyed with deadlines and hard work that came along with straight A’s. I couldn’t be any happier!

To make it even more special, the School of Journalism holds an event at the end of the year called “Just Desserts” to recognize students’ accomplishments and to celebrate graduating seniors and graduate students. I was truly delighted to receive an invite and awarded with the Award for Diversity and Inclusion in Reporting for the year 2017–2018. This is in recognition of my contribution to the cultural exchange program (Al-Jisr) my school has with students from different academic institutions in Tunisia and others in our school, in addition to my participation in other on-campus initiatives throughout the semester including my alternative break in Denver and the storytelling session.

Next week I will be starting my internship with the Tucson Local Media. I can’t wait for the challenges ahead to make the best out of this experience. Stay tuned for my stories!

I also went on a road trip to see sunsets at the White Sands National Monument. It had the most beautiful views!

June 2018

I started my internship with Tucson Local Media on May 21st as a news reporter. My first story came out this week about Ramadan. I thought writing about fasting the month of Ramadan will help people in America understand it better. You can read my article here.

Celebrating my first story in two newspapers The Explorer and Marana News.

I also celebrated Eid with my host family, including my favorite member, Bubu, the dog.

August 2018

I made preparations with global ambassadors for the international students’ orientation week. I can’t believe that just a year ago I was another incoming international student trying to figuring out my way around a new city. Now that I’m on the other side, I wanted to give a helping hand and pass on my knowledge to someone in need.

Working with amazing colleagues from different parts of the world allowed me to explore my own cultural competency and see for myself where we as students come together, agree, and disagree. While we might look different, carry different passports, and speak different languages, we all speak the language of love and unity. We were one big, happy family. My amazing colleagues became friends for life, and I am forever grateful to them for everything they taught me.

International Students Orientation Week

The blend of joy and beautiful minds from across the world who share so much made our meet and greet special. We all came from different backgrounds, countries, cultures, and more, but we carry one international passport to the world, which is Fulbright. Once a Fulbrighter, always a Fulbrighter.

Fulbright Meet and Greet event: Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America all in one picture

September 2018

I sang the Star Spangled Banner with my choir (University of Arizona Community Choir) at the opening of the Diamondbacks U of A Night in Phoenix (Chase Field), AZ, on Sept. 6, 2018.

This was my very first time at a baseball game and the game was indeed A GAME, the score was close and I enjoyed rooting for host city’s team!

As part of my work with the Global Ambassador Program, we took a group of U of A students on a trip to Bisbeeand visited the Queen Mine. It was an amazing trip learning about this site and the mining process.

Dalal taking a selfie with some of our buddies who joined the trip.

Last weekend I joined my colleague at the Society for Professional Journalism National Conference in Baltimore. As a member of my school’s local chapter (co-vice president), I represented our chapter in Baltimore and had an amazing time meeting journalists and professionals from different parts of the country. Here are some highlights:

Our view from our AirBnB on the 14 floor — captivating!

We met with the wonderful SPJ Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie at the opening reception. At the reception evening, the musical band started playing one of the group dances and she saw that people on the dance floor were not dancing and so she literally went over there and took their hands and led the dance to teach them how to dance the right moves. I was impressed that someone stepped in and showed people how to do things the right way- even if it’s just a dance. I was really interested in meeting this woman and see who she is and we did. And I’m glad I did.

I tried to mimic Ray Lewis’s signature pose outside of the Ravens M&T Stadium.

At the SFPJ, I met Mrs. Diana Foley, mother of American freelance journalist James Foley, who was killed by ISIS while reporting in Syria in 2014. She spoke about an academic handbook that will give an insight to journalism students and staff about safety in the field. It’s inspired by her son’s experience and generally spoke about the Foley Legacy Foundation and their work which I was glad to learn about.

From top of the Federal Hill with my colleague.

I took my very first cruise trip on the Atlantic on the Watermark Journey. We even saw the Francis Scott Key Bridge as the sun set.

I got so much from attending this conference. Along with meeting professionals and journalists, I learned a lot about international coverage and reporting, how the U.S. media is short in terms of international reporting, the first amendment, and journalists’ role and responsibility to retain and maintain people’s trust of the media.

October 2018

I had the honor this year to meet with Carmen Aristegui, a Mexican journalist and anchorwoman who received the School of Journalism’s John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award for Press Freedom this year. The ceremony was held on October 12th at Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa in Tucson, AZ. Aristegui has been dedicated to exposing government corruption in Mexico. Aristegui shared an article on her website, with a photo featuring a group of students from the Journalism School (J-School) and I was among the group!

Posing with Carmen Aristegui and her son (left) after receipt of the award.

On October 20th, I participated in the annual James W. Foley Freedom 5K walk and run to celebrate the memory of journalist James Foley who was kidnapped and killed by ISIS in 2014.

Posing with my colleagues from the J-School, and the cutest dog ever, Houston.

This semester I had a blast, again, singing with my University Community Choir. After a semester full of music and joy with the loveliest choir, it was great to be back.

Our performance this fall was titled “The New World:” “an eclectic program that examines the complex issues surrounding patriotism in our ever-changing world. This varied program includes works from beloved British composers as well as choral settings of 20th-century folk and popular music in America. The concert celebrates and highlights the move from loyalty to the crown, to loyalty to a government, to loyalty to one another, ultimately adopting the belief that, ‘this land was made for you and me.’”

The concert was conducted by Dr. Alyssa Cossey, faculty member and conductor of University Community Chorus.

Here’s a sneak peek from behind the stage:

My favorite part of the choir is connecting and making new friendships with amazing people. Here I’m posing with Cybelle (right) with whom I sang soprano with all semester, and last semester too. I’m grateful for the good times I shared with her and fellow soprano singers and the rest of the choir.

On October 27th, The Fulbright Association Arizona hosted a social gathering for Fulbrighters in Arizona at Hacienda Health Care. I met with Fulbrighters enrolled at the Arizona State University. We chatted, talked about our experiences, programs, and future plans.

My favorite friends are Hadiqa and Amy (fellow Fulbrighters)
University of Arizona Fulbright scholars going to Fulbright Meet and Greet in Phoenix (Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, Mongolia, and Congo).

This is my second time and year celebrating Halloween with my friends.

My friends and global ambassadors group from USA, Congo, Indonesia, Argentina, Pakistan, and Mongolia. Halloween with an international flair.

November 2018

November was very memorable because I won third place at the University of Arizona International Students Got Talent Show, singing acapella in Arabic!

It was a very special event since I wanted to bring the Arabic language through music to the community in Tucson. My performance was well perceived and that made my year (and day)!

Here I am singing. I was happy that my friend, a musician from Brazil who trained with me, was sitting in the first row. It was an amazing experience!

Posing with my fellow global ambassadors and other international friends. I will always cherish the memory before I went on stage and my loving friends’ hugged me and wished me luck. I’m grateful to have the UA Global Ambassador family around, nourishing me with their endless love and support.

I’m glad that I got to walk the All Souls Procession again in 2018, and this time I wasn’t reporting on the annual tradition for a class assignment. We had a fun ride downtown to enjoy the procession. Great memories with the best company!

My colleague Vivian, with the bright smile in the very middle of the photo, painted my face. Next to me are my colleagues Alexis and Ty.

December 2018

The Lights of the World Festival in Tucson is another annual tradition that I experienced for the second year. I really love this city and how it celebrates diversity and inclusion with the various events it brings to its local and international community.

It’s funny because I was in line to take a picture with this lovely bear, and kids and parents were queuing up and so my friends and I joined the crowd!

My friend Vida (Iran) and her friend Mitchell (USA).

December was a really busy break for me. I spent my time dedicated to my research and writing my thesis, yet I managed to celebrate a weekend with my friends in San Diego. It was one of my favorite trips! The sun, the sea, and crazy and funny moments with the best company ever.

A candid shot watching the sunset at La Jolla. Credit to my best friend Shreya (from India).

Another amazing memory by my friend Shreya. It wasn’t even planned! I just looked and told her, let’s pose and take a shot here and it turned out to be the best one ever!

January 2019

It was about time for a reunion with my Global Ambassador family to receive the incoming international students.

This was at our first men’s basketball game for the semester (Utah vs UA 84–81). It was a great game with the best company ever!

Another favorite moment of mine from our first welcome event for the semester. I’m the selfie girl and I love to tell people to look up, it always makes for the best moments.

This semester I am getting more hands-on experience in digital journalism with one of the leading papers in town, The Arizona Daily Star. I am proud and honored to produce digital and written content, with a focus on culture and diversity within Tucson’s international community. For the first time, I saw my story covering the Asian Lantern Festival, which had happened for the first time ever in Tucson. I also covered it on Instagram and produced a video.

My story was on page 4 of the Caliente on Jan. 31.

February 2019

My best memory is seeing snow in the desert. This week it snowed in Tucson all across the city and it was a day to remember. I wanted to document this day, so I carried my camera and went across campus taking pictures and enjoying the white angel blessing the city with endless joy and merry.

Took a classic photo in front of the Old Main (you can’t miss the opportunity to take a picture in front of the oldest building on campus).

March 2019

On March 11th, I joined representatives from the University of Arizona (UA) Global Initiatives and International Students Services Office in Phoenix for an event titled “Cats at the Capitol,” (the University of Arizona mascot is a wildcat). We spent all morning talking to attendees about University of Arizona Global Initiatives, their services for the UA community, and study abroad. I was able to share some advice regarding my study abroad in the U.S. and my role as a global ambassador as well.

Fulbright Re-entry Workshop:

This is one of my favorite photos because it shows almost all of the Fulbright scholars from the Palestinian Territories in the U.S. It was lovely meeting them all and reuniting with my own cohort at the Middle East and North Africa Re-entry Workshop. It’s unbelievable how my time in the U.S. has come to an end as an academic scholar. I definitely will look back and cherish every moment I spent here. It was indeed a life changing experience, and these lovely folks are the loveliest ever. Though we live relatively close to each other at home we never met, so thank you Fulbright for bringing the close closer.

March was thus far the busiest month in my semester. I traveled three times- two of which I flew out of Tucson- and this photo here is from my road trip to Las Vegas to attend the Society of Professional Journalists Region 11 Conference “Not the Enemy.” As a co-vice president on my department’s Society for Professional Journalists (SJP) chapter, I was privileged to join my colleagues a third and final time for our tradition of SPJ conferences. We learned a lot about how media and journalism are not the enemy of the people, and discussed policies and practices in media that can foster better understanding of the media’s role in people’s lives. As always, we thought about how we as journalists and decision-makers can prove that media is not the enemy. We also enjoyed some sightseeing around Fremont Street.

April 2019

I joined three other global ambassadors and a group of international and domestic students to Phoenix to attend the Phoenix SunsInternational Night. The Phoenix Suns played against the New Orleans Pelicans. My favourite part about this trip was that we got the chance to high-five the Suns players when they entered the field. This was my first time attending a basketball game in Phoenix, and it was one of a kind. I guess my high five gave them luck and they won that night!

I can’t believe how many times this past semester I said I shouldn’t have joined the choir because I had a crazy workload for my graduation. Still, every Tuesday night I walked to my rehearsals knowing I was doing the right thing because I love to sing. This has been my favourite weekly routine. This was our pre-concert gathering. It was an incredible performance of music and words.

Here’s us all on stage. Photo credit to my host mother, Nancy.

May 2019

I will always remember May 2nd, 2019. The lovely ladies in the picture are my defense committee. I was lucky enough to have both Professor Lumsden and Professor Relly, who are fellow Fulbright alumni themselves.

We journalism students were the loudest cheering for one another as we walked the stage to be hooded. Here we are behind the stage on the Social and Behavioral Sciences Convocation day on May 10th.

And some cool pictures after the convocation:

I was honoured and thrilled to receive two awards at the 53rd Annual Student Awards Celebration: the William Hattich Award for Journalism Professionalism and the Leadership and Service Award. These were in recognition of my contribution to the school of journalism and my role as a global ambassador.

Posing with my fellow recipients of the Leadership and Service Awards:

Of course, graduating students were recognized at the event too and we took some cool pictures after completing the celebration:

I also received the Journalism in the Era of Disinformation Fellowship. A colleague from the Journalism school and I joined 14 other students from the U.S. and Germany in Washington, D.C. and New York for a six day training with professionals and academics on navigating disinformation and fake news.

A glimpse of our productive morning visit to the office of the Associated Press. This is all sixteen students from the United States and Germany.

The best part about graduation is graduation pictures. I didn’t get a photo shoot for my BA graduation and knew I wanted to celebrate myself and mark the completion of my master’s with this unique tradition. My friend Andy from India is a master behind the lens and took a couple pictures of me with my friend and roommate Yuka, from Japan. Here’s a sneak peek: us in front of Old Main, the oldest building on campus, which also currently accommodates the Office of the University President.

June 2019

It is crazy to even think I used to carry a daily load of books and about 2700 pages of articles over the past couple months between home, school, the library and any random cafe I’d sit in to write my thesis. The photo below is me at my internship office getting ready to scan and shred this load. It was an overwhelming moment to realize how writing a thesis is one of the heaviest loads you can bear.

Looking at this photo makes me recall all the moments of sleep, food deprivation, anxiety, depression, tears, drama, skipping the gym, and ups and downs. It also reminds me of the hard work, the “you got it,” “stay focused,” “it’ll be over soon,” and “bear down,” support from myself and my friends, dedication, hope, and love. That and more is what it takes to write a thesis. It was the toughest labor ever. I am so thankful to everyone who believed in me and my work.

Just some 2,700 pages of articles to say farewell to for now

It has been two years in the United States now, and I can’t express enough my appreciation for this experience that allowed me to learn about different cultures through food because of all the international foods here. Tucson is a rich hub of international cuisine. Wherever you go, there’s always something new to taste and try. Being vegan means finding interesting options on different menus. I still have to explain what I can and can’t eat as a vegan, but in my opinion, nothing can go wrong with a vegan dish.

Sushi is one of my favorite light meals. The first time I tried it in Tucson, I was happy that plant-based options were available. It became a favorite, which made me want to learn how to make it so that I can treat myself whenever I crave it. One afternoon, I called my friend Rahul from India and said, “let’s make some sushi.” We had some fruits and veggies and ended up making veggie sushi with carrots, peppers, and avocado, and fruit sushi with pineapple and mango. The results came out really tasty and colorful.

Dalal is from West Bank and reently graduated with her Master’sin Journalism from the University of Arizona.

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Read more Fulbright stories here.