Two in-coming seniors at Bethlehem University (BU) interned in the Washington, D.C. area this summer. Ala’ Sharif and Jacoub Sleibi were among the 10 Israeli and Palestinian students selected to participate in a new internship program called New Story Leadership (NSL) for the Middle East from June 28 through August 8.
NSL President Paul Costello said the program gives Israeli and Palestinian young adults an opportunity to work together and teaches them leadership and communication skills through workshops and internships. NSL is a privately-funded initiative based in Washington, D.C.
This internship provided the first visit to America for Ala’, who interned in the Bethlehem University Development Office in Washington, D.C. doing research for grants along with translation work. The 21-year-old accounting major called her American experience unique and said she learned a lot from her internship. “My leadership skills now are better,” she said. “Now I know how to communicate with Israelis because it’s my first time to have Israeli friends.”
Ala’ lives about 20 miles from Jerusalem and travels two hours each way to attend BU. She said improving her communication skills will help her tell her story more effectively, which includes passing through checkpoints and growing up with bombs falling around her home.
The Fourth of July celebration was one of Ala’s memorable moments during her visit. Watching the fireworks from the Lincoln Memorial was an amazing sight to her. While the noise at first reminded her of bombings, she can now replace that frightening memory with something new and happy. An Independence Day barbeque for school children that she attended with her host family was the most touching part of her experience. “There was a circle and we walked with the kids around the circle and we were waving the flag. It was really nice. I was so happy because it’s something different, but at the same time I felt so jealous because I want to celebrate Independence Day too,” she explained.
Jacoub, a 22-year-old computer science and business administration major, lives only 15 minutes away from the BU campus. He interned with the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in Washington, D.C. doing office work, writing, and creating videos. This summer was Jacoub’s second trip to the U.S. having participated in an internship last summer.
He said the summer programs gave him more freedom, responsibility, and improved his time-management skills. While in America, he tried to immerse himself in the culture with his host family. “I think if you want to enjoy living here in the United States, you should live like Americans. You should eat what they eat. You should sleep when they sleep,” he explained.
Ala’ and Jacoub are in the Bethlehem University Ambassadors Program and represent the University to visitors. After college, both students hope to go to graduate school and earn master’s degrees.