Rudan Balay is a 23-year- old Kurdish-American activist born in Berlin, Germany and will be pursuing an M.A in International Affairs this fall. After completing her high school degree in Prague, Czech Republic, Rudan moved to Iraq and provided support for the refugee crisis. During her time in Iraq, she co-launched an organization called Student Ambassadors for Peace – to promote intercultural understanding amongst youth in a diverse Iraq. Rudan completed her bachelor’s degree at the State University of New York in Prague and has a published bachelors thesis on Islamic State recruitment tactics. She speaks four languages and has attended notable international conferences worldwide including the United Nations Human Rights and ECOSOC summit, and is currently preparing for her participation as Iraqi Youth Ambassador to the United Nations in 2019.
What has been your most rewarding academic experience so far?
My most rewarding academic experience definitely began in high school in the Czech Republic, where I received a European Council award on intercultural understanding. The award was designed for students who educate their communities on different cultures and create an inclusive environment for international students. This particular award set a precedent for my future academic endeavors and was the reason I decided to move to Iraq to work with refugees and open a youth nonprofit alongside my studies. As difficult as it is, once you step out of your comfort zone, magical things happen as you learn a lot about yourself and how much you’re really capable of. I’m extremely grateful that I decided to move to the Middle East although I had never lived there because that molded me into the activist and philanthropist that I am today. Living there during a time where ISIS came into power gave me a better insight on the growth of fundamentalism in regions like Iraq, and ultimately led me to write my bachelors thesis on Islamic State recruitment tactics during a time where there was a major lack of information on the terrorist organization.
What are you looking forward to about living in the DMV?
The ability to apply what I’m learning in my GW classes to the real world through internships and/or jobs that are relevant to my studies. D.C. is the perfect location for my international affairs major and I plan on using the convenient location as an opportunity to get involved with D.C.’s political community. Also, getting to know people from different walks of life! I love learning about new cultures and people, and knowing that DC is so diverse, I really look forward to learning more about people’s backgrounds and how their culture shapes their way of thinking.
What’s on your summer bucket list before coming to the Elliott School?
I plan to visit the cities I was born and raised in, (Berlin and Prague) before life gets hectic and I start the grad program in the fall. I’ll also be doing a Europe tour of all the countries I hadn’t visited when I was living there for 19 years (moving to the States makes you realize how much you take traveling to other countries for granted while living in Europe). I’d also love to overcome my fear of heights by going skydiving in a country I haven’t been to before. Essentially, my summer bucket list consists of traveling, traveling, and then some more traveling.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Preferably Angelina Jolie or Meghan Markle (women I look up to). Our world is filled with too many individuals who concentrate on superficiality and strive to become famous in industries that don’t foster a safe and healthy culture, so it’s refreshing to have people like Jolie and Merkle who advocate for everything good in this world: female empowerment, human rights, and inclusivity.
The #IncomingElliott series highlights incoming Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and current students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. Find out more about this program by creating a CustomViewbook!
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