5 Year Anniversary YFL - Dareen’s Story

11 min readSep 12, 2023

A Year in the Fulbright Life: Dareen’s Story

For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.

August 2017

Fulbrighter Dareen from the West Bank recently completed her pre-academic training at Kansas University with 18 Fulbright students from 9 countries. Here are a few photos she’s shared about her experience.

“This is the statue of Nailsmith who invented basketball and wrote the rules of the games. He used to coach sports at the University of Kansas where I had my program and he lived to see this game becoming an Olympic game. He created this game for his students to play sports indoor as outdoor during winter it was too hard to play due to cold weather.”

“The photo of me with some of my international friends with cars in the background that was taken during a Derby Car Crash event which is a part of local festival. In this event some old cars are renovated and prepared to participate in this game where they enter a gaming ring and start crashing against each other and the one that survives is the winner. The festival in general was interesting especially watching this activity that was first for me to attend a Derby Car Crash.”

“Our poster presentation session that was the final product of our pre academic program. My poster presentation was about Breast Cancer treatment and diagnosis in rural areas of Palestine. This project trigger several ideas for my upcoming thesis as I am enrolled in International Development program with health concentration.”

Dareen also shared photos of herself and her new friends:

September 2017

It’s been a busy month as I settled in at Ohio University.

On 9/11, I stood in solidarity to remember the victims who passed away in the terror attacks and participated in an activity of placing a flag for every victim, hoping that all those inhuman attacks will come to an end.

Who said that we can’t have fun and study?! I had the chance to attend my department’s picnic with some of my colleagues in my program.

Even though there was unexpected heavy rain on the day of the first football game of the season, we didn’t miss it! We bought our fancy Ohio University ponchos into the stadium, and I got to watch my very first live football game!

October 2017

“I’ve been busy with midterms, but I’ve also had the chance to have a few new experiences. I enjoyed the beauty of nature in Ohio during the fall by horseback riding on a trail with my American roommates and a few friends. I also had the chance to participate in the homecoming parade with the international student association. We each held a flag of our home country we were representing. Homecoming is an event where alumni are invited to return to campus for a weekend. It normally includes a parade or a football game where all the current students, faculty, and alumni attend together and show their school spirit.

I also had the chance to meet American politician Ted Strickland, who was the 68th Governor of Ohio. We had a thought-provoking discussion that was facilitated by Dr. Julia Paxton regarding economics and challenges that poverty faces worldwide and in the Appalachia region especially.

Besides my classes, I’ve joined the Right to Movement running team, which advocates for human rights. This month I ran in the homecoming race and accomplished a new personal record as I had my fastest 5 Km run in 28 minutes.”

November 2017

I volunteered at an environmental camp with five colleagues from different countries. Each one presented about changes to the environment and climate in their country, and I discussed the impact on the Dead Sea, which is one of the unique environments impacted by the phenomenon of changing weather patterns in the West Bank.

Planning a community campfire with the kids was fun, and I got to try s’mores for the first time after I have been hearing about them a lot from the kids!

I am also enjoying the wonderful Christmas spirit here! Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, especially since I come from the Holy Land.

December 2017

This month, I had my finals and it was a busy period. However, I met with my friends and we made a ginger bread house and decorated some cookies together. This is a photo of us with one of our masterpieces. In addition, we enjoyed caroling and it was a good motivation to get through the exams.

After I finished my exams, I traveled to Texas. It was my first time visiting my friends there, and I am so happy for the chance to celebrate Christmas with them. This is a photo of me in front of their beautiful home in Austin, Texas that won the Christmas decoration competition in their neighborhood.

Last month, I also supported my friend, a Fulbrighter from Kyrgyzstan studying film, to produce his short film for his final project. It was interesting to experience what happens behind the scene, and I was amazed with the final product.

January 2018

I have crossed attending the ball drop at Times Square in New York off my bucket list! I enjoyed it with some friends and met new people from all around the world and the United States. That was a once in a lifetime unique experience!

My visit to the United Nations (UN) was so inspiring. I was excited to be in a hall where people from countries all around the world meet to work towards a better world and to protect human rights. Watching the meeting and the achievements of the UN was what inspired me to pursue a humanitarian career in the first place.

I had a reunion with some of my friends and Fulbrighters whom we met through the pre-academic program. We enjoyed the winter break together in New York and DC.

I hosted an international dinner with friends from 12 countries. Each person cooked a traditional meal and we celebrated our achievements of the last semester and are ready for our second semester!

February 2018

February is the shortest month of the year, however, it was really a busy month with all my studies and the ongoing activities on campus.

During this month, I enjoyed celebrating the Chinese New Year with some friends.

In addition, there was an event highlighting Middle East culture. At this awesome occasion, I wore a traditional outfit with beautiful Palestinian embroidery.

One Friday evening, I volunteered and served dinner for the community at a local church. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people.

I had great time with Ohio University Fulbrighters. During March, we will be planning for the upcoming year and will be holding the executive board elections. Stay tuned for more stories from Ohio University Fulbrighters!

March 2018

I enjoyed celebrating with some friends the Iranian Nowruz (Persian New Year), as I am always enthusiastic about exploring new cultures. I also gave a presentation about my beautiful country as a part of Fulbrighters who gave presentations about their home countries at Ohio University.

Celebrating Persian New Year

I was honored to be elected as the Vice President of Fulbright Students Association at Ohio University. Stay tuned for more upcoming activities with Fulbright!

Fulbright Association at Ohio University

April 2018

I have completed a half marathon in my host city of Athens, Ohio and I achieved a new personal record. My passion for running for humanitarian causes is what pushes me to run further and stronger. This run was to support homeless people struggling with poverty in Ohio.

Celebrating our friends who are graduating this year was so much fun with the awesome international diversity and beautiful humans from all around the world.

I also attended the International Street Fair, which was a wonderful and unique experience. Flags of all the countries were set on campus and people represented their countries and cultures. I had the honor to share my beautiful country and our awesome culture.

May 2018

My first year passed by really quickly and was full of development on all levels including personal, academic, and professional. I enjoyed every moment of it including the challenges and all the new experiences.

Many friends graduated and I was so happy for them but, of course, will miss them. My program gave me the opportunity to develop a network of friendships with people from all around the world.

This month, I participated in an enrichment seminar with 127 Fulbrighters in Philadelphia, where we learned about big data, conducted community service, and enjoyed beautiful Philly. Check out my blog to learn more about my adventures there.

I moved to Washington, DC for my summer internship with the Peace Corps. I am glad for this learning experience, through which I will support a program that has a humanitarian base and aims to strengthen the cross cultural exchange through development.

June 2018

As I moved to DC for my internship, I got the opportunity to enjoy the city and to participate in many social and cultural activities such as the parades for example the Memorial Day Parade, the Pride Parade, and the Championship Parade (the local hockey team, the Washington Capitals won the championship)!

I visited Niagara Falls and that was breathtaking. I enjoyed the beauty and the power of nature in the United States.

August 2018

I had a great summer internship at Peace Corps headquarters, where I supported the unit that aims to connect U.S. volunteers with local educators to establish cultural exchange. Connecting the volunteers through developing a platform for further outreach was wonderful. Some of these students did not have the chance to travel abroad, but through this program we are able to bring the world to them in every community and state in the United States.

I have also enjoyed some summer activities and concerts in Washington, D.C.

When it was time to go back to school, I was so happy to see my friends from all around the world. Additionally, I am happy to be back on our beautiful campus, Ohio University — ranked among the top 15 most beautiful college campuses in America.

We had a Fulbright welcoming picnic, where the Fulbright family had a surprise belated birthday for me.

We celebrated my friend’s 30th birthday at my home with people from more than 20 countries including American friends. In addition, we sang for her happy birthday in 6 languages!

My friend Eleonora (a Fulbrighter from Moldova) and I facilitated a lecture. We matched that day with our Fulbright shirts and shared a brief talk about Fulbright.

October 2018

I had a trip with the International Student Union to the Columbus Botanical Garden that was decorated with lots of pumpkins, where we also got to enjoy the breath-taking fall.

Happy Halloween! As the Fulbright Association’s Vice President at Ohio University, I helped host a Halloween game night, where I dressed up as a witch this year!

I have also volunteered at the Halloween event at church where we held a trick or treat event for the community children. It was a spooky and fun event with the huge engagement of children and their families.

Dareen is from the West Bank and is a second-year Fulbrighter. She is studying International Development Studies at Ohio University.

Follow updates from Dareen and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what Dareen does this year!

Read more Fulbright stories here.