Four years fly – it might be enough time to earn a degree, but it’s not enough time for many students to accomplish everything they want to at school.
But these four students, who were all freshmen last year, know how to take advantage of their time at GW. In just one year, these rising sophomores became virtual poster children for the University, becoming involved in campus activities, starting their own organizations and taking advantage of the city. The Hatchet consulted faculty and students to seek out these outstanding rookies, who are just a few of the soon-to-be sophomores who deserve to be included in the group.
Hesham Zakaria is a natural at ballroom dancing. He first attended a Ballroom Dancing Society meeting last year, and just months later became an award-winning dancer.
“It really helps you relax and it was something that I always wanted to do,” Zakaria said. “I picked it up really fast and my partner was amazing.”
Zakaria, who has won six ribbons in intercollegiate dance competitions, said his hobby would not have been accepted in the community he grew up in – a compound called Dhahran in forcefully conservative Saudi Arabia. Zakaria lived in Dhahran, which is run by his father’s employer, Iranco Oil, from the age of four months until he left for a Connecticut boarding school at 15.
After growing up in the community, he is used to the strict enforcement of Muslim tradition. He often served as a chaperone for burqa-clad female friends who could not walk the streets alone without fear of harassment. Zakaria said he once had the back of his legs beaten with a stick for wearing shorts that exposed his knees.
In spite of the religious conservatism and constant fear of terrorist attacks that came with living in the compound, he said he is grateful for the world view it gave him.
“It gave me a perspective that most people don’t have,” Zakaria said, adding that many students tend to have an idealized or unrealistic view of the world. “They still haven’t pieced together the way the world works.”
Zakaria may have a broader view of the world in some respects, but he admits he is facing some culture shock while living in D.C. this summer – his first spent outside the compound. It’s the first time that he’s seen girls walking around in shorts.
David Rosenbaum first met Sen. Joseph Lieberman at a synagogue service when he came to visit GW.
Now, as the Democratic Connecticut senator and former presidential candidate’s scheduling intern, Rosenbaum has done much more than view the politician from a distance. As a freshman, Rosenbaum handled the senator’s invitations to receptions and interest group meetings, drove him to the airport and answered his phone. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was once on the other end of the line. Rosenbaum even had the opportunity to eat lunch with Lieberman’s family at their Georgetown home.
“It was not your typical kitchen,” Rosenbaum said, recalling the photos of the senator with former running mate Al Gore at the Democratic National Convention next to family photos on the Lieberman’s refrigerator.
That wasn’t the only sign that the house belongs to one of the country’s most well-known politicians.
“He pointed out where there was a huge Secret Service tent in the backyard from when he ran for vice president,” Rosenbaum said.
By the end of the spring semester, Rosenbaum was interning around 22 hours a week while also juggling classes and homework.
“I didn’t sleep that much,” Rosenbaum said. “But that’s a decision that I made.” And it’s a decision that he doesn’t regret.
“It’s been a lot,” he said. “But it’s been a lot of fun.”
Rosenbaum plans to return to Lieberman’s office in September and looks forward to helping with the senator’s 2006 re-election campaign.
When Sharon Yasrobi was a freshman in high school, she was a Santa cap-wearing bell-ringer for the Salvation Army.
As a freshman in college, Yasrobi was able to take her interest for community service to a new level by working as a student program assistant for the Office of Community Service’s Outreach and Volunteer Program.
Through the position, Yasrobi helped organize community service events including a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event and the Adopt-a-Family program, which provided toys to local families last Christmas. The efforts of Yasrobi and others to advertise the Adopt-a-Family program through flyers and advertisements paid off when more than 100 families received sponsorships from the GW community.
Academic departments, student organizations, floors of residence halls and individuals all adopted local families.
“It was really amazing to see how much they were willing to give,” Yasrobi said.
She plans to stay involved with the Office of Community Service throughout the next three years of her college career.
“The entire purpose of this office is to help students volunteer,” she said. The organization, Yasrobi continued, specializes in matching students with the service opportunities that are best for them.
In high school, Hanan Wasse loved reading and listening to poetry, but once she arrived at GW, she had a hard time satisfying her poetry passion. Readings were hard for her to find, and she had difficulty locating students with a similar interest.
After finding that some of her friends were facing similar poetic withdrawal, Wasse decided to organize a group of students to go to poetry readings together.
“I talked about it with my friends, and they told their friends,” Wasse said. Before long an 11-person group had formed by word of mouth.
The unofficial club met only once last year – they attended a performance of Think Tank Revolution, a student organization that writes and performs spoken word poetry, and then got dinner together afterwards. But Wasse said the event was the start of something big.
Wasse plans to register the group officially with GW in the upcoming fall semester as the Poetic Connoisseurs, a name that Wasse likes because it emphasizes listening to poetry, not only writing and reading it.
“You don’t necessarily have to be a poet to enjoy it,” Wasse said. She stressed that while some members enjoy writing their own poetry, reading one’s own work is not a requirement of joining the club.
“I like the idea of people being able to express themselves, and I like listening to that,” Wasse said.
Although she has written poetry of her own and has not ruled out the idea of someday sharing it, Wasse is content with her spot in the audience at readings.
She said, “Ironically, I’m not a big public speaker.”
This article appeared in the June 15, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.