Embracing Opportunities Abroad
Marie-Christine Ghreichi says that French “runs in the family.” Between her Lebanese father, who is a native speaker of French, and her American mother, who earned a master’s degree in French, it is a familiar language to her and played into cultural norms of her home growing up. When she studied the language in high school, she “fell in love with not only the French language, but also its music, literature, and food.” Naturally, she arrived at the University of Minnesota eager to sign up for French classes—and she wasn’t disappointed. She cites a “fantastic” linguistics course and an “absolutely incredible” class on the Enlightenment thinkers in France as highlights of her academic career. She appreciates the Department of French and Italian's “incredibly rich array of courses regarding French and Francophone cultures and histories as well as courses addressing critical philosophical and analytical questions within the academic world."
After finishing her undergraduate degree last year with a double major in political science and history, as well as a minor in French, she was awarded the Katherine E. Sullivan Scholarship to pursue a fifth year at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Studying in a multilingual and multicultural country with strong ties to France, French language, and French literature has given her the opportunity to utilize her French skills. She is currently focusing on studying Arabic, Lebanon’s official language, and says that “finding the confidence to speak in Arabic in these locations of cultural dissonance is challenging, but serves as a gateway to learn something new about the culture.”
Ghreichi’s interest in advancing human rights led her to seek out experiential learning opportunities for her time abroad. She is passionate about understanding the many forces responsible for human rights violations and points out that building an understanding of these things “is essential to ensuring international security and deconstructing the struggle between political hegemonies and the Global South.” To that end, she is currently completing an internship with Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian organization that aids vulnerable populations across the world. She works to create mechanisms that help protect victims of crimes and assists them in finding safe means to report and hold their perpetrators accountable.
Ghreichi’s goals of working in a field that would help advance human rights will only be aided by her experience in Lebanon and her passion for learning languages. She says that “language in any situation not only provides us with modes of literal communication, but also cross-cultural communication, which is essential.” Ghreichi adds that French, specifically, will be beneficial as it plays a major role in diplomacy worldwide.