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Student Spotlight: Nadia Fahmy 

Meet Nadia Fahmy; CLU's first Fulbright J1 Student

Nadia, a graduate student pursuing her master's in Clinical Psychology at California Lutheran University, is a young woman on a mission. She hails from Egypt and embarked on an incredible journey to the United States as a Fulbright J 1 exchange student. In this interview, she shares her experiences, culture shock, and aspirations.

    Nadia's journey begins with her unwavering passion for understanding people and helping them. Her pursuit of a career in psychology led her to pursue her master's degree in the United States. She says “Psychology has always fascinated me, drawing me towards understanding people and helping them, which is why I chose this field”. She envisions a career in psychology with a focus on cross-cultural studies and expresses a desire to conduct research and integrate diverse perspectives into her work. Nadia is a traveler at heart, having explored various countries alone since she was a teenager. Her adventurous spirit is complemented by her love for aerial sports. She says “This is my first time in the US, although I've traveled to Europe, Ukraine, India, and even did aerial sports in some of these places. Traveling is a passion of mine, allowing me to explore and meet new people, shaping my personality and experiences.


    She describes her experience as a Fulbright J1 exchange student as a long and competitive process. The application required a year and a half of dedication, including exams, interviews, and research proposals. Nadia says: “It involves a highly competitive and lengthy application process. It took me about a year and a half from the start of the application to actually traveling. And it was all still so sudden, I found out details of my acceptance a week before I was expected to fly out. The program includes various evaluations like GRE and TOEFL, interviews, and a research proposal. It is surreal to be here and study what I'm passionate about through this program. I never thought I would actually get it.”. Nadia says the opportunity to study her chosen field in the U.S. is a dream come true. She highlights the sense of community among the Fulbright scholars in Egypt, emphasizing the program's diversity. She explains how unique this experience is, “This is my first time having such an immersive, long-term international experience. Not too many experiences come close to it. I have traveled for a long time, I worked and lived in India for a few months. But this time, it’s not just traveling, it’s for years. I used to take solo trips, and my mother sent me to an international camp alone when I was 14. I owe my love for traveling and ability to handle it, to her entirely”.


    Nadia chose California Lutheran University for its strong focus on research in clinical psychology, the picturesque campus, and its proximity to family members in the area. Nadia appreciates the welcoming atmosphere, the various clubs, and the support for international students, which helped her adapt to the new environment. She says, “When applying to universities in the US, I focused on California due to having family here. Cal Lutheran stood out due to its strong research aspect in Clinical Psychology, a feature not common in many programs. The campus's serene ambiance and the proximity to family were appealing. I was drawn to the smaller community, making it easier to connect with people. My goal is to engage in diverse research areas and integrate cross-cultural psychology into my studies.” 

    She shares her experiences of culture differences as she transitioned from Egypt to the United States and mentions collectivism versus individualism, as well as the unique ways in which people express affection and friendship. “One major difference I noticed is the individualistic nature of the US compared to the more collectivist culture in Egypt. The concept of personal space and relationships differs, impacting how friendships are formed and maintained. Navigating this cultural shock has been challenging, but engaging with international student communities and embracing the differences has helped me adapt.” The contrast in people's behavior on the streets, especially regarding traffic, took her by surprise. She highlights the importance of food in showing love and hospitality, as well as the nuances of friendships and gift-giving. When asked about her family she says, “ I am the oldest daughter, and I had duties. I used to pick up groceries every week and now my mother does it all alone. I love my freedom but sometimes I get sad over all that I am missing. My mother’s birthday was last month and I was on facetime as she cut her cake. She cut out a piece for me, and brought it up to the phone and said “here, take it, it’s yours”. Everyone there laughed, and I was holding back my tears.” 

    Nadia offers valuable advice to aspiring students, encouraging them to seize every opportunity and not be afraid to ask for what they want. She emphasizes that no experience is too small and that pursuing passions is key. Reflecting on her journey, she says “My advice to aspiring students is to don't hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and explore. Take advantage of the events, concerts, and clubs available to you. Additionally, never underestimate the power of asking for what you want, whether it's in academics or personal life. To my former self, I'd say to keep pushing through challenges, as the outcome is often worth the effort. Stay determined and embrace the journey.” She adds, “I know it is a cliche, but there is no better advice than; keep going, keep doing, keep trying. Listening to that advice is the only reason that I am here.”  


    Nadia's story is a testament to the transformative power of education and cultural exchange. Her journey from Egypt to California Lutheran University as a Fulbright J 1 exchange student is an inspiring example of courage, determination, and an unwavering passion for making a difference in the field of psychology. Nadia's experiences and insights will undoubtedly serve as a source of inspiration for many aspiring students.