Colgate professors support globe-trotting student Madison Grant ’16

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Where in the world is Madison Grant ’16? From Newport Beach, Calif., to Hamilton, N.Y., to Cairo, Egypt, to Brooklyn, N.Y., there’s no telling where Grant will end up next. One thing is for certain, though — she’ll always feel at home in the Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilizations academic program.

While at Colgate and this past summer, she has taken her interest in the Middle East to new heights by fully immersing herself in the region’s language and culture.

It was her Jewish roots and interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that initially attracted Grant to the Middle East, she explained. So, as a first-year, she jumped into the intermediate level of Arabic in preparation for the extended study course called Living Egypt. She got her first taste of Egyptian life over winter break in 2012 when she traveled to Cairo and Alexandria with professors Noor Khan and Nady Abdal-Ghaffar.

Then, this summer, Grant sought out a position that would help her practice her Arabic language skills. When she landed an internship at the Arab American Association of New York in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Grant felt like she was back in downtown Cairo.

“Everything is written in Arabic and you don’t see anyone who’s not Arab. Every woman is covered. It’s a whole different world that you would never know existed,” Grant said.

Located in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, the organization offers free social and economic services to the densely packed Arab population. While working alongside Medicaid representatives, pro bono lawyers, and volunteer English teachers, Grant witnessed the varied needs of the local community. From helping visitors with immigration and asylum paperwork to translating from Spanish to Arabic for the in-house lawyer, she took on an active role in the organization and was exposed to many Arabic dialects.

“I never knew how each day would go because different issues always came up. I went from helping people who can’t speak any English find apartments to helping a mother get her youngest child out of Syria to come here. Even though I experienced sadness about their situations, I felt very fulfilled at the end of the day,” she explained.

After spending the end of her summer traveling to Israel for the Birthright program, Grant is happy to be back at what she calls her second home for the semester. And it helps to have her mentors, Khan and Abdal-Ghaffar, at her side.

“They make school feel like home and even opened up their house to me. It’s nice to have professors whom you can really rely on,” she said.

And, if you can’t find Grant in an upper-level Arabic class, at Khan’s home for a barbecue, or playing a round of golf at Seven Oaks, just look up. After begging her parents for flight lessons at the age of 10 and earning her pilot’s license at 17, she is a seasoned veteran in the sky. Leaving from the Hamilton Municipal Airport after class, she will sometimes take a 10-minute solo jaunt over the Finger Lakes, or maybe venture to Cornell if she has 20 minutes to spare. Despite flying over famously beautiful destinations like Hawaii and San Francisco, she insists that upstate New York offers the best views.

Grant’s not sure what’s in store next, but she’d better buckle up because it’s bound to be an exciting ride.