Dillon Shoemaker, a student at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, studies International Relations and Economics:
"This program has had an indescribable effect on me and on my life...As I continue my studies, travels, and work, I feel that I will constantly discover new ways that the program has shaped me which I hadn’t realized or appreciated.
Perhaps the most tangible effect that my participation on this program has had on me is that before, my personal knowledge of the world was greatly limited. I had only left the United States twice before, and only to Western Europe. This trip exposed me to cultures, ideas, emotions, places, and conflicts that I had previously only studied. For a student of International Relations, and one who aspires to eventually work for the State Department, such understanding of the world is indispensable. I feel I now have a much greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures, religions, and opinions than ever before. It’s no understatement that this Program has truly opened my eyes to the wider world, and the necessity of interacting with different peoples and cultures. It is a lesson I hope to embrace throughout the rest of my life, starting with my time spent studying abroad this upcoming year. I still have much to learn and understand...
I have also begun to examine my own beliefs, values, and self-identity. In the United States, most people, myself included, usually identity themselves by their town or state of origin, by their favorite sports teams, by their political beliefs, etc. But my participation on this Program introduced me to a radically different region and culture, one in which ethnicity, religion, gender, and nationality played a much greater role. This ‘culture shock’ has made me rethink my own life and myself. Although I expect this process is going to take quite a long time, I have really started to reexamine, and sometimes question, my previously held beliefs, ideas, and values, and to reshape how I identify and think of myself."
After the program, Dillon will be studying abroad in Amman, Jordan and Beirut, Lebanon, where he hopes to improve his Arabic language skills and learn more about the geopolitics of the Middle East. He hopes to eventually serve as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S Department of State, and is ecstatic about participating in this year’s Ibrahim Leadership & Dialogue Project, during which he hopes to learn more about the ramifications of the Arab Spring, nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and the role of petroleum in the region and the implications of the world’s shift away from fossil fuels.
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