This month's HOTM is Mariam is from Dearborn, Michigan, who was nominated by her sister who had this to say about her,
"Mariam is the perfect role model and representative of what a Muslimah should be. She will be graduating from Harvard this May and has been chosen to be the female Commencement Class Day speaker for her 2016 class. She is an inspiration for hijabi's everywhere to pursue higher education and always follow your dreams."
Mariam is 21 years old and is graduating from Harvard University this spring with a Bachelor's in Sociology, a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy, and a language citation in Classical Arabic! She will be attending the University of Michigan School of Public Health to study Health Management and Policy next fall in hopes of working in the metro-Detroit area in her future. She absolutely loves to travel, read, and work out.
1) When did you start wearing hijab? Tell us a little about your journey.
I was pretty young when I started wearing the hijab. Growing up in Dearborn, MI, we were surrounded by a large Muslim community, so it was not a difficult decision to wear one despite being in the U.S. I remember four other girls had come to school wearing the hijab before I did, and everyone was celebrating them. It made me look forward to wearing one rather than afraid that I would look strange or be treated differently. My two older sisters and mother had also been wearing the hijab, so looking back, it was a pretty effortless decision; I was excited to join all the women I looked up to so much and wear a hijab as they did.
2) You are graduating from Harvard University this spring! Tell us about your experience at Harvard, what you studied and what you plan to do next!
Being at Harvard has been the best four years of my life. I truly loved the experience. I met some of the most amazing people from all around the world who I know will be my life-long friends. I was finally in a place where everyone was different from me; they challenged my belief system and helped me become a better citizen of the world. I also fell in love with traveling while at Harvard; I studied abroad in Italy, Hong Kong, Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa, and Argentina. Those travel experiences are the most memorable and life-changing I've had at Harvard. While at Harvard, I studied Sociology with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy, and a language citation in Classical Arabic. After graduation, I will be going back to Michigan to attend the University of Michigan School of Public Health to study Health Management and Policy. I'm really excited to be close to home again and be surrounded by my family and friends, and most importantly, the amazing food :)
3) You've been chosen as the female Commencement Class Day speaker for your 2016 class (full speech is below!) Tell us what this extraordinary achievement means to you.
Being chosen as the female Commencement Class Day speaker for my class is truly such an honor. I knew I wanted to write about something that has resonated too well with me these past four years, and I'm so humbled that I get to share this parting message with my class. More than anything, I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to make my family proud; I heard my parents smiling through the phone when I told them the good news!
4) There are some young women who feel there are barriers for them to apply and attend ivy league universities - what advice would you give them?
My first advice to those thinking about applying to an Ivy League is to APPLY! I never in a million years thought I would be accepted, but I applied anyways with that small hope that I might. The easiest way to be rejected from a school is to not apply. The grades and test scores are not as important as who you are and what you love. If you write a sincere essay that showcases who you are, where you came from, why you love the things you love, what you are passionate about, how you will contribute to the college campus, you have the same shot as anyone else! The numbers are important, yes, but the essays are what give the admissions officers an idea of who you are. They put a face to the application. They are often so much more important than your scores; countless of my peers, including myself, definitely did not have perfect scores when applying. So in short, apply and pray for the best.
5) What imprint on the world would you like to leave behind?
I don't know if I have figured out what I want to leave behind just yet :) It's still in progress. Whatever it is, I know it is to help as many people as I can.
6) Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with hijab, what would it be?
If someone is struggling with hijab, I would tell them that you are not alone. Every hijabi, whether living in the U.S. or outside, struggles. We are humans who struggle and question our beliefs and search for answers. Struggling with wanting to wear a hijab is an extension of just that--being human. I think the first step I would take is to truly introspect and ask myself why I'm struggling; what is the source of this discomfort or struggle? Is it the outside world? Is it religious doctrine? Is it my friends or family? The sources are endless, so it's important to try to understand where your struggle is coming from before taking that next step, whatever it may be. Secondly, be sure to surround yourself with positive people who challenge you, support you, and make you want to be the best version of yourself. A support system is always important.
Do you have someone you'd like to nominate for Hijabi of the Month? E-mail us at email@example.com