Graduate Profile: A Path to Passion
“You shouldn't ever set limits for yourself. You only get as far as you think you can go, and you'd be surprised at what you can do. I learned that here.”
Areej Samara’s path to Governors State University was a winding one, but the reward was the realization of her passion. As a mother of two, the 2020 graduate will receive her Bachelors of Art in Political Science after having taken a break from school to have her children and take care of her husband who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
“Life took me down a different path, so I stopped a lot. I took a lot of breaks. Then I found out about GSU from friends, they told me it wasn’t too far and I might really excel here. So I applied.”
Majoring in political science was not a random decision but one that came from her own experiences as a minority, and spoke to her passion.
“I am a part of the minority as a girl of color. As a student, there's a lot of hardships for us. I wanted to give a voice for those who are marginalized and for those that can't really speak up for themselves, for those that aren't always heard, aren't always seen, or always looked over. So I realized later in life that, we can have a voice, we can be like everyone else. It didn't occur to me right away, but I started taking more interest in politics and then I realized that I could major in political science and potentially have a career in it,” she said.
Samara found that voice at GSU in the classrooms where the professors sparked the excitement she always knew was in her.
“When I started, I came here for the convenience, but I stayed because I really loved my professors.”
Samara saw her professors as willing to go to the extra mile with her to ensure she succeeded. When thinking of the professors that made the greatest impact on her she’s stuck.
“Honestly, all of them. They are amazing and I learned so much from all of them. Professor Khalil Marrar, Professor Nicole Grantson, Professor Donald Culverson, and Professor Sayoni Bose all inspired me in different ways.”
Throughout her academic career, Samara was reaffirmed that she was exactly where she was supposed to be, and that the future held exciting prospects.
“In each class I realized that I loved what I was doing and I was just reassured that this is my passion and what I want to be. I thought that so many times,” she said.
But Professor Marrar’s story spoke to Samara the most. As a fellow Palestinian and from a family of Palestinian refugees, Samara saw her own potential in his success.
“In so many ways his story and his journey in America, even in school, is similar to mine and my family's. It inspired me. I knew no matter the hardships and how difficult your journey is because you’re a minority or because you’re different, that there is a way for you to achieve all you want and become successful––become that doctor with a Ph.D., and be that political scientist that you want to be, or go to law school, and do whatever you want to do!”
More than just invigorating her passion, GSU gave Samara the opportunity to apply this passion in the real––or simulated––world. In one of her political science classes, Samara had the opportunity to travel to Springfield for three days with her classmates and students from other Illinois Universities to simulate a government. The experience was eye opening to her.
“That trip was great because I learned that it's good to bring passion to everything you do. We're often afraid to speak our minds and use our voice but that experience showed me how important that is.”
The third day of the trip stood out for her in particular. As the simulated government discussed proposed legislation to provide needles to diabetics, the humanity of the situation alighted.
“On that very last day when people started speaking about their personal stories and the hardships that they had been through and their experiences, it just brought something real to the table. It just reminded me of the importance of being vulnerable, that despite your race, despite your income level, despite your gender, your walk of life, that we all have struggles and we can relate because a lot of our struggles are systematic and institutional. It brought us all together and made us realize, ‘Oh, we're all human.’”
As her time at GSU comes to a close, Samara looks ahead to the communities she can enrich in the same way GSU did for her.
“After graduation I want to study for my LSAT and pursue law school to work in immigration law. I want to help kids.”
Looking back on the path that led her to GSU and now takes her to her next great adventure, Samara hopes all mothers can see their potential.
“I am a mother of two and for so long people told me it was a roadblock and that it's a reason for me not to be able to get through school, but you can do it. And GSU is the best institutions for it. It took me longer than most students, it wasn’t the traditional path, but I got here, I succeeded, and I did well!”
Samara encourages all students to strive for greatness.
“You shouldn't ever set limits for yourself. Sometimes it's hard, but don't set boundaries for yourself. Give yourself a push and go as far as you can go. You only get as far as you think you can go and you'd be surprised at what you can do. And I learned that here.”