By Suk-Lin Zhou '14
When senior Dibarah Mahboob sought advice last spring from her advisor, Professor Sohail Hashmi from the Department of International Relations, regarding her summer plans, it was the start of a wonderful journey.
“I asked Professor Hashmi to suggest meaningful ways to solidify my educational base. He recommended that I travel,” she said. “I decided to combine travel with research because that was something I wanted to do, and then I sought ways to get in touch with think tanks, because they made the most sense for research help."
Think tanks are organizations that can conduct research regarding a nation’s social policy, political strategy, economy, military, and technology problems. Globally, there are more than 4,500 think tanks, and most are nonprofit organizations. Mahboob, who is from Bangladesh, initially wanted to intern at a think tank in Lebanon, but she was unable to due to strict entry regulations. Her second choice was to intern at a think tank in Jordan, and as it turned out, Jordan was the right fit.
“The Prince of Jordan is the founder of the think tank, and although my official title was research intern, I was really conducting research of my own,” she explained. “I initiated, organized, and funded my research project. Professor Hashmi guided my research process, and the think tank helped me gain access to refugee camps and provided translators and mentors for me.”
Mahboob's research focused on Palestinian refugee camps and the how they can be institutions for producing collective memories.
“In Jordan, there are two types of camps – those established in 1948 and those set up after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. These camps vary in terms of conditions, treatment, and how people feel about their identity; people in the 1967 camps are not given Jordanian citizenship and are marginalized by the government,” she said.
"There is so much more to refugee camps than what the media often portrays to us. People are dealing with so much more than just their physical conditions. The people I met there inspired me. They were willing to help and to speak to me," Mahboob added.
When she was not conducting field research, Mahboob went hiking, visited the Roman ruins, and slept under the stars in the Wadi Rum desert. She kept a blog throughout her travels: Amman Alone: Tales of a Novice Solo Traveler in Jordan.
"I have only traveled with my parents in the past, so traveling alone was a different experience altogether—it was an enriching experience. I was in Jordan for two months, and I fell in love with the country," she said.
During her stay in Jordan, Mahboob took charge of her own life and found a deeper understanding of how to have a meaningful dialogue with someone. She tried her best to speak to as many Jordanians, Palestinians, and expatriates as possible. Through her conversations, she gained a deeper understanding of her research that would not have been accessible within an academic setting.
After her internship in Jordan, Mahboob interned at the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York. While in New York, she was able to meet Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and to solidify the international relations skills she gained in Jordan.
"My trip to Jordan helped me gain a better understanding of myself and the world,” she said. “I encourage everyone to travel because I feel that it is a method of education itself rather than a luxury few can afford."