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Amirah Ismail

Name Amirah Ismail

Graduation year 2009

Majors Global Studies and Justice Studies 

Minors/Certificates Arabic Studies and Islamic Studies 


What's your current job?

I'm a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State, currently working at the U.S. Embassy in Algeria.

How does language and culture help you succeed in your career?  

Being a successful diplomat requires excellent language skills and substantive knowledge of international cultures.  By speaking to people abroad in their own language, I can really connect with them, learn, and show that I respect their culture.  And in this way, as an American and a diplomat, I can build new bridges.

Did you study abroad?

If so, can you speak about your experience? While at  ASU, I was fortunate to take part in two study abroad opportunities: a summer program in Regensburg, Germany focused on German language and culture; and a semester abroad program at the American University in Cairo where I took courses in Arabic language, literature, sociology, and Islamic studies. Both programs were fantastic! I really enjoyed being immersed in local cultures and participating in a wide range of extracurricular activities.  My time in Cairo was extremely valuable, as it led to a fascinating internship the following year at a well-known NGO founded by one of the region's leading democracy and human rights activists.  My studies there also laid the foundation for the honors thesis I defended at the Barrett Honors College, and prepared me well for the start of my career with the U.S. Department of State. 

How did ASU and the language program at SILC prepare you for your future?

I had a wonderful experience at ASU learning from talented professors and fellow students, and participating in student clubs. In particular, I am truly grateful to have had SILC's Dr. Souad Ali as my professor, thesis director, and mentor. I learned a lot from her courses, and from the guidance she provided as I prepared my honors thesis. Her support and recommendations also helped me prepare a competitive application for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, an award I won just one month before graduating from ASU.  As a Rangel Fellow, I leveraged my ASU experience, obtained a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from George Washington University, and began working in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

What was your favorite thing about learning a language?  

My favorite thing about learning languages is going beyond the textbook, beyond the classroom.  Watching movies and TV, listening to music, reading the news, talking to locals, exploring a new street or city--this is really how you expand your vocabulary and immerse yourself in a culture.  At ASU, I spent time engaged in these activities through the Arab Student Association and during my time abroad at the American University in Cairo.