OISS Intern Yue (Ethel) Xu sat down with Humphrey Fellowship Scholar Asrar Jaber to learn more about her experiences in her home country of Palestine, her time at MSU, and what cultural exchange means to her.

Asrar Jaber 1Asrar Jaber is from Gaza, Palestine where she worked at a non-governmental organization conducting research on youth empowerment. More specifically, she worked to enhance youth initiative so that they could directly engage in their municipalities’ decision-making processes. Her hometown of Gaza has been surrounded by a series of blockades that were established as ramifications of Palestine’s political climate dating to over 10 years ago.As a result, the political climate has made it almost impossible for Gaza’s residents to leave the area even for vocational training, education, personal development or enjoyment. For her personally, it took a long time and great efforts to acquire permission to leave the area for the U.S.

Much to many people’s surprise, Gaza has its own educational system and institutions of higher learning. At nearly 90%, the literacy rate is very high. Due to lingering war and the country’s complicated political climate, unemployment rates among Gaza youth hovers around 58%. Most young people in Gaza cannot find jobs after graduation from college. There are few organizations that help the youth obtain work-related skills and knowledge for further career development. Even though many young people in Gaza have solid educational credentials, the lack of any real opportunity leads to malaise and uncertainty.

As a participant in the Humphrey Program here at MSU, Asrar’s goal is to learn how to empower youth. The young generation in Gaza truly needs to realize that they can empower themselves by leveraging their potential to seize new opportunities. This has a lot to do with why she chose to pursue Human Resources Management Studies at MSU. She has already taken many workshops and classes in this area and is currently shifting my focus to further learn about how to motivate and empower the youth in the field of social work. With this expertise, Asrar believes that she can help motivate the youth to embrace their own self-determination and confidence for the future. She wishes to bring a glimmer of hope to her home country and its young generation despite the country’s difficult political situation. It’s important for them to know that if they apply themselves and persevere, they will find a way forward.Asrar Jaber 2

Thanks to the support of the Humphreys Program, Asrar have been able to make professional connections and affiliate with an organization in the D.C., Women for Women International. The organization is focused on supporting women in conflict zones and works tirelessly to improve women’s social status and living conditions. Asrar plans to bring back what she has learned at MSU and through Women for Women International to help implement new ideas and initiatives in Gaza. Ultimately, she would like to start up her own non-profit organization someday.

Asrar knew to expect cultural differences between her home country and the U.S. before coming to MSU. She was particularly worried about how people in the U.S. would perceive her “Hijab” hair covering.However, no amount of negative experiences will overshadow Asrar’s positive ones in the U.S.  She feels lucky to have met so many people who were respectful of her culture and that she has nurtured friendships that could last a lifetime. There is an abundance of fortunate and blessed feelings for Asrar. She is mainly grateful that her program is at MSU as she is surrounded by so many talented and intelligent people of many different cultural and academic backgrounds.

Due to her experience here, Asrar believes that she has a balanced understanding of the U.S. and its people. Here time at MSU has made her more aware of the different people and cultural backgrounds from all over the world.

Overall, she feels strongly that her experiences have allowed her to grow personally and professionally. Although she is humbled by all the amazing scholars she has met in the U.S. and their unmeasurable talents, she won’t stop believing that she can always do better today than yesterday.


More About the Humphrey Fellowship Program

Sixteen major American universities have been chosen to host Humphrey Fellows based on the universities’ excellence in designated fields of study and for the resources and support they offer the fellows. Michigan State University’s Humphrey Fellowship Program, which focuses on economic development, has been in place since 2002.

Since that time, MSU has hosted 159 fellows from 80 countries. Humphrey Fellows at MSU have participated in a variety of areas of study and research, including business, economics, public policy, human resources, community sustainability, and law. Fellows bring an international perspective and years of experience, which they share with faculty and students, the university, and the community at large. In addition, fellows learn about American perspectives on leadership, professional practices, and culture. For more information on the Humphrey Fellowship Program or how to apply visit the Center for Advanced Study of International Development website.


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