Aiding Syrian refugees in Germany

Zuka’a Joudeh

While witnessing and reading media reports about the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany and prepared with years of German language studies dating back to high school, UIC student Zuka’a Joudeh was inspired to make a difference working with the country’s growing Arab community.

“I am studying political science and saw that there was a way to address this in a different way,” said Joudeh, who will graduate in May with summa cum laude distinction and bachelor’s degrees in political science and Germanic studies. “It needs to be done with people and policies. There is a disconnect and I got really interested in it.”

Supported by UIC study abroad scholarships, such as the Germanic studies department’s Max Kade Travel Grant, she spent the past two summers in Berlin, where she bolstered her German language skills at Humboldt University and volunteered with Arab refugees. The latter project, which involved an internship, structured volunteer opportunities and an advanced language class, was made possible by the UIC Fruman and Marian Jacobson “Bridges” Scholarship.

Her view on the need for humanitarian and policy solutions was only reinforced by the experiences.

“If we worked directly with the Arab population that is already there, they can tell us what’s missing and help bridge that. Through this they could have a shared collective identity and it could develop into a political identity,” said Joudeh, a Palestinian American. “They are making this their home and they are going be part of the culture. They are going to cause a different dynamic in the policy and politics.”

Joudeh will return to Germany in September to begin a Fulbright English teaching assistantship. She is one of a select group chosen to work in a diverse school and will be based in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. The city and institution are yet to be determined.

The Fulbright is a “great opportunity” to build the foundation for her career, but equally important, if not more, is the chance to work outside of the U.S. and in a diverse school, she says.

“Within the 10 months, I’m going to be able to make the connections I need to pursue a master’s program in Europe and make the ties to work with the Arab population in Germany,” she said.

While at UIC, she has been a three-time recipient of the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Award for her work on campus as director of the UIC Undergraduate Student Government’s sustainability and infrastructure committee, as an ambassador for Students for the Advancement of Freedom, Equality and Human Rights, and as a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.

She hopes to ultimately pursue a doctorate in political science with a focus on comparative politics in the Middle East.

“I want to be based with Arab immigrants in Germany and eventually the U.S. and Middle East,” said Joudeh, a resident of Palos Hills and 2015 graduate of Stagg High School.

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