Aya Al-Shakarchi ’23 expected to spend most of her summer in Norway representing Concordia College at the Peace Scholars seminar. In February, Al-Shakarchi was named one of Concordia’s two 2020 Peace Scholars, receiving a Smaby scholarship, which covers the cost of attending the seminar abroad.
Al-Shakarchi was especially excited because she had the opportunity in 2019 to participate in a similar program in Germany for high school students. Like the Peace Scholars seminar, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at the UWC Robert Bosch College in Freiburg, Germany, explored how students can contribute to a more peaceful and sustainable world. With this background, Al-Shakarchi was looking forward to broadening her perspective and expanding her knowledge as a Peace Scholar.
“Being a Peace Scholar allows me to discuss war, peace, and conflict with other students who have different backgrounds and experiences with these issues in various countries,” she says.
The annual seminar, usually held in June and July at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer and at the University of Oslo International Summer School, is a seven-week intensive academic experience for two students from each of the six Norwegian Lutheran colleges that make up the Nobel Peace Prize Forum consortium. However, like many other scheduled events around the world, the Peace Scholars program canceled their in-person seminar and moved to an online format due to safety concerns over COVID-19.
With the cancelation of the seminar abroad, Al-Shakarchi instead spent her summer living in Moorhead. While participating in the Peace Scholars program online, she also had the opportunity to work as an intern in Concordia’s Sustainability Office. As a sustainability intern, she developed ideas for virtual events for students on and off campus, planned sustainability-related events for fall, maintained Concordia’s campus bikes, and helped envision how sustainability efforts across campus would look for fall.
Al-Shakarchi says that during these uncertain times she recommends fellow students to focus on the bigger picture.
“We are all dealing with the situation in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to handle a pandemic,” she says. “Do a digital screen detox and concentrate on the present rather than worry about what might or might not happen,” she says.
Lauren Richardson ’19, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Major: Communication Studies
Lauren Richardson ’19 knew she wanted to live abroad after graduating from college.
During her senior year at Concordia College, Richardson approached the Global Learning Office, Career Center, and International Admission, where the staff helped her explore job opportunities overseas. She decided on an internship in the marketing and public relations department at United International College in Zhuhai, China.
She spent the summer following graduation in Tanzania and began her internship in August 2019, planning to stay in Zhuhai until her internship concluded in July 2020.
However, Richardson was forced to change her plans in February while traveling from China to Australia to visit some friends during the Chinese New Year. During the holiday, the threat posed by COVID-19 escalated in China and she wasn’t able to return. In order to fulfill her dream of living abroad for at least one or two years, she decided to remain in Australia.
“Thankfully, I still got to experience my internship remotely and continued to do so until it’s completion in July,” Richardson says. “In the meantime, I began working as a live-in nanny for a family in Australia to help with homeschooling.”
Richardson has some advice for current students who are trying to plan their future during the pandemic.
“Although the plans you had in mind might not be going as you had originally thought they would or the dreams you had for the future might be on hold, instead try to focus on something that could help with your future goals,” she says. “If you want to live abroad, start learning a new language. If you are in the marketing world like me, build yourself a website and start blogging. There are many things you can do at home to help build self-knowledge that could help you land a job after this is all over! Also, remember that we are making history right now. This period of time will be in history books for years to come, so I’d recommend keeping a journal. Whether that is writing, a video, or voice recordings, in a few years you will look back and think, ‘Wow what a time.’”
Like many other seniors who graduated in 2020, Fahima Alizada ’20 never imagined that her final semester of courses at Concordia College would take place online and that she would not have the experience of walking across the stage on graduation day.
Alizada first heard about Concordia while attending St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minnesota, after having moved to the United States in 2014 for her final two years of high school. Following her high school graduation from St. John’s, she began attending Concordia in fall 2016.
During her time at Concordia, Alizada was actively involved on campus. She worked in several offices and served on the EcoReps team.
“With no doubt, Concordia has been my home away from home for four years and I always felt extremely welcomed and loved,” she says.
Alizada says she is thankful to her professors who challenged her to achieve more than she believed she could, while at the same time offering grace, kindness, compassion, and consistency – especially when classes moved to an online learning format.
She is also appreciative of her supervisors in her various jobs across campus who helped her determine her career path.
Following graduation, Alizada moved to Chicago and recently accepted the position of an administrative assistant at the University of Chicago. Prior to that, she worked as an account manager for Coast Inc., a marketing and sales company based in Chicago. She says she enjoys the opportunity to live and work in a big city, despite experiencing it all in during a pandemic.
“Although things are uncertain, we all need to be positive and take time for self-care and reflection as we keep motivating ourselves to reach our fullest potential,” Alizada says. “We also should all realize that we are not alone in this. As Cobbers, we will always have the caring and supportive Cobber community that is willing to lift us up and help us succeed.”