Personal Overview

My name is Nala Chehade and I am a junior at Virginia Tech working towards degrees in International Studies, with a concentration in Security and Foreign Policy, and History with minors in Spanish and Middle East Studies. Although I was born and raised in northern Virginia, my family traveled often. I wanted to study International Studies since I was young, understandably due to my global experience domestically and abroad. I added a History major during my sophomore year, after completing HIST 2346: History of the Middle East. My favorite course taught me the discrepancies between the reality of Middle Eastern daily life and Western stereotypes. I hope to serve the Middle East through policy change. Later in life, I hope to serve students as a History professor.

Virginia Tech helped strengthen my abilities by offering a multitude of leadership positions, research opportunities, and meaningful relationships. My top 5 strengths are analytical, deliberative, achiever, responsibility, and context. This means I am an executing, strategic thinker. I use these skills to make the world a better place, often through my servant leadership style. I learn best by doing; therefore I encourage others to learn by example. I believe education in its many forms is crucial to forming world leaders, especially in an organized system.

I hope to be recognized as a Keystone Fellow because I have used the Aspirations for Student Learning to inform my campus and community involvement. I would like to share these experiences with other students, especially by further developing the Keystone Program at Virginia Tech. As my “This I Believe” Personal Statement demonstrates, I struggled to adjust to life in Blacksburg. I felt my dreams were too large for the small town. With help from my mentors and peers in the Division of Student Affairs and College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences, I learned to bloom where I am planted.

“This I Believe”: Personal Statement

American culture fabricates an extraordinary idea of what college life should be like. Your undergraduate years should be the best four years of your life. Atlantic Coast Conference schools present an especially celebrated image of university life. Students boast high levels of school spirit, demonstrated by constant eagerness to attend football games, wear school colors, and idolize the mascot.

Although I wanted to earn a bachelors degree, I had no desire to remain in Virginia. After being rejected from my dream school, I reluctantly accepted to attend Virginia Tech as a freshman during the Fall 2014 semester. I tried entering with an open mind, however I felt increasingly out of place in and out of the classroom. During my introductory level courses, I felt as if my peers did not have a similar desire to learn the material as I did. On the weekends, I felt that my friends had no desire to diversify our social activities. I struggled to fit in; therefore I struggled to remain focused on why I was in college. I even filled out several applications to transfer schools.

During my spring semester, I frequently returned home to northern Virginia. As awful as I felt, it became clear that my parents carried my burdens in addition to theirs. My parents did not understand the way I had felt, having never attended university. My father worked several jobs to ensure my brother and I would attend college, something he never had the opportunity to do. Yet every Sunday afternoon, I would consider dropping out and staying home. They would argue that I must return to Blacksburg to complete my undergraduate education. They struggled to understand why their daughter was so upset, especially if she had an opportunity to enjoy an American education.

That summer, we visited our family in Lebanon. My parents immigrated to the United States from Beirut during the 1980s to escape the Civil War. After seeing my cousins for the first time in four years, I realized my situation was not as helpless as I had imagined. If my cousins could enjoy their lives despite the constant threat of falling bombs, I could complete my university education. However, I wanted to do more than complete an education. I wanted to enjoy my undergraduate years.

I returned to Virginia Tech for my sophomore year with a new mindset, anxious to encounter my old struggles but eager to conquer them. I took responsibility of my life by making decisions deliberatively. I became involved with the College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences and the Division of Student Affairs. By the end of my sophomore year, I felt proud of the person I had become. I utilized campus systems to relate to others and practice my strengths. I practiced courageous leadership through my role as President of the Virginia Tech Union. I lived Ut Prosim by visiting refugee families from Sudan, Syria, and Jordan in Roanoke. I channeled my curiosity by exploring my academic interests. I exercised civility by putting myself in situations with people different from me, especially during the election season. I displayed self-understanding and integrity by being intentional in my decisions. I question the purpose of my thoughts and actions, resulting in a tightening of my life in accordance with my desire to serve the international community. I believe in the faculty, staff, and students of Virginia Tech who inspired me to want to become a part and parcel of the community. I believe in communities.