By Zainab Iqbal
Published: May 3rd, 2017
Like most other days, Anumta Raheel woke up at 5 a.m. during spring break for the first prayer of the day as outlined by Muslim tradition—Fajr. Half asleep, she checked her email; she had been accepted to the Fulbright Summer Institute.
“I thought my chances of getting in were pretty low after the interview,” Raheel said. “It was on Skype with three British women, and it lasted less than 10 minutes.”
The Fulbright Summer Institute supports around 60 UK and US undergraduate (freshman and sophomore) students each year. The program lasts for four weeks and covers all participant costs.
Raheel, who is in the Macaulay Honors College and Coordinated B.A.-M.D. Program (a pre-medical honors program), applied to the Summer Institute in February. Though there were many different summer institutes being offered, she was most interested in The University of Bristol, where she will be studying Slavery and the African Heritage. According to the press release from the Fulbright Commission, “The program will provide perspectives from all three continents [Europe, Africa, and North America] from lectures, hands on experiences through archaeological fieldwork, and visiting historic locations.”
“When you learn about the Slave Trade in the U.S, you learn it very regionally. And you learn about as if it was one really bad thing that happened in our history, and we got over it. We forget that it still has an impact on how we perceive race today,” Raheel said. “So a lot of the courses focus on current racial discourse in the UK. It’s a really interesting time to study this and go to the UK because of Brexit and also our similar political situation.”
According to the press release, the Commission not only looks at academic excellence, but also at extracurricular activities. Raheel is the treasurer for Muslims Giving Back—a community service club on campus; in Peer Health Exchange, where she goes to high schools to teach freshmen about sexual health; and spent her summer shadowing doctors at the New York-Presbyterian Methodist Hospital to help fulfill the B.A.-M.D. requirement of 320 clinical hours.
For a student who wants to become a neonatologist (providing medical care for newborn infants), she believes anthropology is an important step—which is why she is currently majoring in that field.
“One of the primary indicators of how healthy a nation is, is their maternal health and infant mortality,” Raheel said. “Neonatologist’s track the baby’s health. To be a neonatologist you really have to know about the health of the society you’re living in. So, if you’re living in downtown Brooklyn, know the demographics, type of people living there, and the health issues people have there.”
“Plus, I can’t become an anthropologist,” she laughed. “They don’t make a lot of money.”
Though Raheel is excited to go to Bristol, she did have concerns since most of Ramadan—a holy Islamic month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset—would be spent in a foreign country; but believes it will be an experience she will remember.
She also credited Professor Paul Moses of the English department and Professor Naomi Schiller of the Anthropology department for working with her on her application.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Raheel said.
What does she hope to bring back from the UK?
“A better understanding of conversations about race in society today and how that’s rooted in the perceptions of race 100 years ago,” Raheel said. She went on to describe intersectionality—an anthropological term which describes the different forces and layers that contribute to a problem. “You cannot look at racial issues like Black Lives Matter, mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, and think that these are just conflicts of today and have no history. I hope that after this course, I just have a greater awareness of issues that people face, minorities face, and a better idea of how we can solve/address those issues, especially in the age of Trump.”