When speaking to Jennan Al-Hamdouni ’09 about her young adult life, she rattles off a list of countries she has visited—places that most of her peers have never been to.
Iraq, Jordan, Switzerland, Kenya, Taiwan, Tunisia, and Palestine are just a few.
So it’s no surprise that the 25-year-old, who felt a calling in high school to spend her life helping others, will join the Peace Corps next week—jetting off to help schoolchildren in Morocco.
“I want to be on the ground in places most people think are a lost cause,” Al-Hamdouni said.
The Bristol, Rhode Island, native, who studied Political Communication and Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson, will spend two years teaching English skills to Moroccan children and adults, as well as hygiene methods and ways to prevent HIV/AIDS in the northern African country, which blends both Islamic and African influences.
“I’ve been given a lot of privilege in life and I want to give back to areas of the world my family is from or that I’m in love with,” said Al-Hamdouni, adding that she visited Morocco in 2008. “I’ve known since senior year of high school that humanitarian aid is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Al-Hamdouni’s father, Khalid Al-Hamdouni, was born in Iraq and moved to the United States at age 20. He is a longtime professor of construction management at Roger Williams University and in 2010 took a sabbatical to travel with his daughter through the Middle East, including Iraq, to visit family.
“We went to northern Iraq, where it’s a lot more peaceful,” she said. “We didn’t go to Baghdad no matter how hard I tried to convince [my father].”
Even though Al-Hamdouni has always felt safe while traveling, that does not quell the fears of her American-born mother, Doreen.
“She came to me, broke down, and said that she trusts me, but it’s the world she doesn’t trust,” Al-Hamdouni said. “I’m her baby and she’s scared. Two years is a long time.”
Many of Al-Hamdouni’s global treks have taken place during the course of volunteer work with various organizations. Al-Hamdouni spent several weeks in Kenya, where she worked in an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS shortly before her senior year at Emerson.
She also spent a semester studying in Taiwan through her participation in Emerson’s International Study and External Programs.
Last summer, Al-Hamdouni completed an intensive Arabic language-training course. She tentatively hopes to attend graduate school to pursue international diplomacy after her stint with the Peace Corps.