Muna and I both started the Global Development and Peace Program (GLDP) at the University of Bridgeport the same semester. It turned out that we were in all three of our graduate classes together! During our second class, we recognized each other from the first class and got to talking. She told me about where she was from originally from the Palestinian Territories, and where she was living in Bridgeport. We talked about our previous studies and then realized that we would both be in the next day’s class together as well. At the end of our third class we really started to begin a friendship and have become very close since then. I have a car, so I have been happily driving Muna and our other friends for grocery shopping and fun outings during the daytime when we don’t have class. Having Muna in all of my classes has been great. She is not only a dedicated student that helps me stay on track with all of our assignments, but because she is my friend we just enjoy class together all the more.
One class with Muna that was exceptionally interesting was our Sociopolitical World Religions class. Including Muna, there were three Muslim students in the class, and it was amazing to get to hear first-hand perspectives and experiences about Islamic culture, since that was a large part of our class study. I knew very little about Islam before these classes, and I love how even though Muna and I (and my other classmates) come from different cultural and religious backgrounds, we found that we have very similar morals and hopes for the world. It made such a difference having students with these experiences in my class instead of learning about it just in a textbook.
One weekend Muna came to my family’s house to babysit my dog with me, and she was able to meet my parents and my puppy (they all LOVED her)! Being a huge, huge Harry Potter fan, I was very excited to watch some of the movies with her and share the magical love! We talked a lot about her family, and what her home was like in comparison to my family home. Even though they were in totally different locations and climates, there were many similarities. As we cooked meals together, I learned about her food preferences, some of which she didn’t eat due to personal preference and some due to religion, but I also got to learn about Middle Eastern cuisine. Overall, we had a really fun weekend (my dog was very sad to see Muna leave), and my parents are still asking about the next time she can come back!
Muna has become my closest friend at school, and not just for the good times! Once final paper deadlines started approaching very quickly, we spent most of our days in the library together. Our schedule became library before lunch trying to get as much work done as possible, fun lunch out or staying in and cooking, then working really hard at the library, and then class. Muna and I really helped keep each other on track because we both had the same assignments (and the same love of Cheesecake Factory and Panera), so we were great at motivating each other. After our last class Muna and I, along with some of our other friends, had a celebratory bowling adventure, which was very amusing and so much fun!
This winter break we both traveled across the world, Muna home to the Palestinian Territories and me to France, and got each other some traditional gifts during our adventures (a beret from me and a traditional scarf from Muna)! We are in all the same classes again this semester, for which I am very grateful. I’ve loved learning about Muna’s life, because it is very different from mine in some ways but then so similar in others. She is someone that I really care about, so her background and her struggles are very important to me as well. I’ve also really enjoyed being her American friend who can help out with the strange American terms, phrases, and slang we use. But I really love how even though we come from completely different backgrounds and parts of the world, none of that really matters, because she’s just another one of my great friends.
Ciera met Muna while Muna was a Fulbrighter at the University of Bridgeport. They are both working on their Master’s in Global Development and Peace.