Faces of the Flag: Wafaa Hassan Aburahma
By Bob Cunningham
When Wafaa Hassan Aburahma arrived at Bowling Green State University from Palestine in January 2015, she said she turned purple because it was so cold.
Now that she’s set to graduate in August with a Master of Arts in Cross Cultural and International Education (MACIE), Aburahma is so comfortable in Bowling Green that she often thinks of it as home.
“Sometimes, I accidentally refer to Bowling Green, Ohio, as home,” she said. “If I am on a trip in another state and on our way back, I feel very comfortable coming here and my subconscious would be saying, ‘We’re going home.’
“I like that the city is very small and very safe with mostly college students. Even the families who live here I feel they’re a bit more sophisticated, and that gives me comfort. There’s almost zero crime here, almost zero hate crimes.”
Aburahma, who is from the Gaza Strip, decided to attend BGSU because her former employer recommended universities in the Midwest, especially Ohio, as welcoming to international students.
“She mentioned that in Ohio there are a lot of internationals and universities that attract a lot of international populations,” she said. “So, if I came here, I wouldn’t be alone. I wouldn’t be a stranger, there would be some people from the Middle East or other Muslim countries.”
Aburahma said she always has felt comfortable in her surroundings at the University.“If I am on a trip in another state and on our way back, I feel very comfortable coming here and my subconscious would be saying, ‘We’re going home."
“I like the diversity at BGSU,” she said. “There are students from 80-plus countries on this campus. I didn’t meet all of them, of course, but I had a great opportunity volunteering with the international students’ orientation for three semesters in a row. That’s how I really made a lot of friends.”
Aburahma taught English as a foreign language before she came to the University. As a graduate student at BGSU, she also has been a translator for students who speak Arabic. Currently, as part of a graduate assistantship, she is a project coordinator for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, who are visiting the campus for six weeks.
When Aburahma arrived at BGSU she went through the teacher’s certificate program for one year, and then she began the MACIE program — and really hit her stride.
The MACIE program is an academic, research-oriented graduate program in the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy (EFLP). It offers students rigorous coursework with opportunities for collaborative community service. MACIE prepares participants to be effective leaders in cross-cultural and international education arenas. With a core curriculum in educational foundations and research methods, students examine education issues from diverse perspectives in international, transnational and global contexts.
When Aburahma joined the MACIE program she was given a partial scholarship and an assistantship position with the Global Village Learning Community, which she said was the the best thing to happen to her at BGSU.
“It’s about pairing international students with domestic students, and I was the teaching assistant,” she said. “I taught the classes independently and I also was the administrator of assistants, so I got to do a mixture of really wonderful things: teaching the class and planning a lot of cross-cultural events and ethnic trips. We went to Chicago twice, we went to Detroit and Columbus and many trips to Toledo.”
She will get to travel to Chicago again this summer with the Mandella Washington fellows.
“These are some of the great things I get to do here at Bowling Green,” Aburahma said. “I get to meet people from all over the world, ask them different questions and learn about where they come from; what they eat, what they do, how they deal with things.
“Actually, I can admit I became a totally different person over the past two years. Back home, there was diversity; there were a lot of international activists coming around for work and I made friends with some of them from different parts of the world. But it’s very different here when they are peers and I just hang out with them. We cook together, take trips, do each other favors.”
Aburahma is confident about her life after Bowling Green, due greatly in part to the MACIE program.
“The MACIE program introduced me to unlimited possibilities,” she said. “There is a wide range of things I can do with my degree and my skills and the experience that I got after I worked for three semesters in a row as a graduate assistant.”
Aburahma also interned at the International Programs and Partnerships (IPP) office in the spring. Her work was focused on the education abroad program, which was a whole different perspective for her. "I get to meet people from all over the world, ask them different questions and learn about where they come from; what they eat, what they do, how they deal with things."
“I was used to working with students who come to BGSU, and then I was working with students who are leaving BGSU to become international students elsewhere,” she said. “Over the past four or five months, I became more oriented toward working in international students offices or being a student organizer or coordinator. These are the types of jobs I’m interested in. I am actually job hunting right now.”
Aburahma now has experience in teaching English, running projects and designing curricula, and also has expertise in managing international students. She’s also interested in being a designated school official. She took an intensive three-day training course in Cincinnati in late April.
One of her long-term goals is to work at the United Nations, and she believes BGSU has given her the tools to achieve them. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have recommended her sister attend the University, too.
“My sister was admitted and granted and assistantship to the Ph.D. program in photochemical sciences, and I am very excited,” Aburahma said. “I haven’t seen anyone from my family for the last two and a half years. It would be huge if she gets here.”