Image of Farah Al-Farhan.Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates after her Iraqi parents fled their war-torn homeland, UAB graduate Farah Al-Farhan has international flair that separates her from many less-traveled students.

Yet while her family moved to Alabama when she was 15, she still shared some of the same problems that home-grown students face with their college experience.


Choosing a college was her first problem. "I had only been in the country for a few years, and I didn't know anything about colleges or universities here," she remembers. Initially leaning towards Auburn or Alabama like many of her high school classmates, it only took a visit to the UAB campus to change her mind.

The difference was diversity. "(UAB) looked different than what you would expect a university in Alabama to look like, and I'm talking about student demographics," she says. "It really didn't feel like I was out of place at all, there were people from everywhere, I felt like I would really fit in."

Choosing a major was another common problem that Farah shared with other students. She admits to having been "clueless" as to what she wanted. Early on her majors included business management, international studies, communications, and even electrical engineering. Ultimately she chose a double major in political science and economics. "Political Science appealed to me because I knew I was interested in Middle Eastern and World politics, but also that I didn't understand much of it."

"When I was first deciding on my major it wasn't something I knew I wanted a career in," Farah says, "but coming from a different background and knowing that my life has been influenced tremendously by politics, it was interesting to me to study it more in depth."

Getting Involved

Once her mind was made up, Farah dove into academic life, taking 18 credit hours or more every semester. In addition to her regular political science coursework, Farah was also a member of the Global and Community Leadership Honor's program, which she credits for raising her awareness on numerous political and social issues.

Image of Al-Farhan video. The synthesis of Farah's academic and personal experiences led to her involvement with on-campus political groups. She helped to establish a grassroots branch of Alabama Students Against HB 56 (the state's controversial anti-illegal-immigration law), and was on the board of both the area's first chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and the newly founded Middle Eastern Student Organization.

"It was the best part of my college experience," Farah says, "Getting involved with that sort of thing creates a different mindset. It's so easy to forget about the rest of the world and become engrossed in school, and work, and your own schedule.

"My activism on campus has especially helped me figure out where my passions lie, whether they be in immigration and civil rights, or Palestinians' right to return and self-determination. These causes have all sparked my interest in global diasporas, nationalism, and ethnic conflict; all of which I plan to take classes about."

An Outstanding Student

Farah was one of three awardees of the Aaron Lamar Jr. Scholarship in 2011, received the Department of Government's Voytek Zubek Memorial Endowed Scholarship in 2012, the UAB Inclusive Campus Commitment Award in 2013, and was named Outstanding Political Science Student in 2013.

Farah will be attending the London School of Economics and Political Science this fall, working on a master's degree in Comparative Politics. She hopes to eventually work with international organizations, "whether with refugees and immigrants, issues of human and civil rights, or international law."

Jimmy Singh
is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in psychology. After working as an aircraft mechanic and avionics tech for over a decade, he decided to finish his degree.
An intern at UAB Digital Media, he contributes his skills in writing, editing, and photography.