by Michelle Sarver
Two weeks before fall classes, Said Maalouf travelled from Paris to Penn State to pursue a master's degree on a Fulbright Scholarship. In his first semester as a graduate student, Maalouf is taking on leadership roles and excelling in his achievements within the School of International Affairs.
Maalouf completed his undergraduate studies earning a Bachelor of International Affairs and Diplomacy at Notre Dame in Lebanon, where he was born and raised. He then moved to Paris to pursue both work opportunities and graduate school. After receiving the Fulbright Scholarship, he transferred his studies to Penn State's School of International Affairs. Maalouf is enthusiastic about studying in the United States and in particular, Penn State, because of its reputation for excellence in higher education. “In France you just go to class, take notes all the time, and no one asks questions. Everyone tries to memorize everything,” Maalouf said. He prefers the atmosphere of U.S. classrooms and the education system's interactive and analytical nature.
Maalouf found himself pleasantly surprised by Penn State and the State College area in general. “When I found out it was in State College, in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, I was freaked out because I'm not used to living in a small town,” he said. “I came here and found out it was a very good school with a very interesting program that allows you to really utilize your knowledge of international affairs and develop as an individual and as a young professional, especially with all of the technology we have at hand and the very qualified faculty,” he said.
He plans to explore the many extracurricular activities that the university offers. In his first month at Penn State, Maalouf was elected President of the School of International Affairs' Student Government Association (SIA SGA). He has since joined Penn State's prestigious Glee Club and the International Speakers Program, and now writes for the Penn State Global Forum
. He also helps a fellow Penn State student study Arabic through Global Connections' Conversation Partners Program.
As President of the SIA SGA, Maalouf would like to bring a range of opportunities to his fellow students. He said, “…I would really like to bring more diverse activities to the program and to make sure that every student feels included and is motivated to participate in our activities because we will be here for two years. We have to create a bond between each other so that we can get through this program with the spirit of brotherhood, of joined efforts, and high goals,” he said.
Maalouf's dreams and goals did international affairs. “I have always had a dream of becoming an airline pilot. I got flight simulator software, and I would spend days and days on it.” However, when it came time to pursue such a career, he realized that the program was not feasible for him in Lebanon. He relinquished this goal and reevaluated his plans. He believes that reevaluation is an important and positive part of life. “If at first you don't succeed, redefine what you did as success,” he said. “Maybe someday I will fly planes as a hobby instead.”
Maalouf is focusing his studies on security and peacekeeping at Penn State and would like to pursue a career as a United Nations diplomat. To prepare for this, he continues to participate, beyond his studies, in many training programs. He has participated in seminars by Amnesty International on how to observe cases of human rights violations and draft reports on the issue at hand. He also trained in advocacy for conflict resolution at the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue. He was selected from One Young World in London to participate as a delegate and representative of Lebanon. The event was chaired by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Maalouf's ultimate career goal is to become the United Nations Secretary-General or to get as close as possible to serving in that role. He plans to begin his career path by applying for a position at the United Nations following graduation. He is also interested in working for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO). UNESCO's work especially in matters of education and culture fascinates him and, he feels,would offer him the chance to return and again work in Paris. Without question, Said Maalouf is clearly a student on the move and definitely on the “fast track.”