Who We Are: Alia Ibrahim


Alia Ibrahim, IDS, 2016

My IDS program helped me to discover my passion and place in the world, enabled me to develop sharp critical thinking skills, and contributed to my ability to succeed professionally. Currently, I work at as an International Patient Services Coordinator at a prestigious Midwest medical facility in the International Programs department. Many of the skills I have acquired enable me to provide a bridge for international patients to obtain the medical care they need in a culturally and racially sensitive manner. Current policies and research support the notion that healthcare is best delivered in a culturally sensitive manner, which can sometimes be difficult in a racially and culturally diverse setting. My expertise from my personal and educational background has enabled me to work with various organizations that serve Arab and Muslim populations.

Being raised in an ethnocentric Arab Muslim community in Chicago created a murky set of Arab values to negotiate in an American context. One side of my family was governed by “proper” and “respectable” conservative Arab and Muslim values; the other side of my family is from a German working class background in Pennsylvania. My reality was shaped by these seemingly diametrical opposites – a culmination of Orientalism and its antithesis. My undergraduate background is in Political Science, and I became interested in Middle Eastern Politics because of my bicultural upbringing as an Arab American and experience of being racialized after 9/11.

As I come to the end of my graduate career, I reflect back and see how each and every course impacted my ability to know myself and critically think about the factors that shaped my reality and how I interact with the world. I can trace the trajectory of my education as beginning without much grounding in the variables that shaped my existence. International Studies courses helped me connect historical events and systemic powers to my own experiences and positioning in the world. This was further explored in Women’s and Gender’s Studies courses, where I studied feminism and post-colonialism to reflect on how gender roles shape our experience in society. Finally, I moved into the Modern Languages program to focus on Arabic language and culture to gain more language and cultural competency skills. All of these disciplines have shaped my life today and empowered me to move on from being a shy girl who did not understand herself to a professional striving to bring cultures and nations together.

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