10. Farrah Rahaman
Undergraduate, BA International Area Studies & BA Art History ’17, Drexel University
By Mary Caparosa ’16 and Diane Ketler
Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone ’13
“I’m predisposed to having a deep-rooted interest in international issues,” says Farrah Rahaman, a junior double majoring in art history and international area studies with a concentration in justice and human rights. At 21 years of age, the undergrad has been to Guatemala, Madrid, Haiti and Peru, and has spent her spring and summer breaks writing alongside leading Haitian poets, volunteering as an English teacher, and studying international development up close.
“When you’re from a peripheral country and the dominant news is coming from Europe and North America, you’re going to have a deep curiosity in international affairs because you’re being flooded with ideas and theories that are removed from your direct experience,” Rahaman says.
The Trinidadian grew up traveling and considers herself loquacious and an advocate at heart. At Drexel, she is the president of the Drexel Student Alliance of the United Nations Association and founding president of the Drexel Poets, Essayists and Novelists (PEN) Society.
Regardless of where she is in the world, Rahaman is mindful of her own circumstances.
“Although I’m a woman of color and have had to deal with different intersections of discrimination, I’m educated and have the means to travel. I try to stay very aware of my positionality and be reflexive in the different spaces I’m fortunate to enter,” she says.
For Rahaman, that awareness also means giving back. During her co-op in Madrid, her time was split between taking an art history class at the Prado Museum, teaching English as a volunteer, and working in the international development department of a European law firm. In the latter role, she applied her theoretical understanding of international justice and development, writing proposals for the European Union, and acquiring along the way an interest in alternative economies.
“Having that experience in Madrid was really helpful because I got a sense of the bureaucracy that surrounds development projects,” she says. “It gave me direct insight into the reality of foreign aid. It was a real turning point for me because I was working on trade projects that didn’t really undercut the dominant local issues. Instead, I felt like they were reinforcing the neocolonial power hierarchy, which lies at the root of the problem.”
While Rahaman’s career plans are still being shaped by her studies and travels, her passion to make an impact is unwavering.
“I’ve thought about the law, academia and policy work, but feel like I can work across different fields and hopefully use my diverse experience to find my niche,” she says. “My hope is to inspire others to think more critically about the world around them.”