Meet Our 2022 Winter/Spring Fellows!

QAIC’s Fellowship Program is a seasonal virtual and in-person fellowship opportunity for experienced creatives and scholars from the US, Qatar, and the Arab and Islamic worlds.  Throughout the year, QAIC offers fellowships and internships for students and post-graduates passionate about the arts and cultural heritage. This summer, we are hosting four new fellows and interns, who will work across our Communications, Programs, and Operations departments to support the work of the Institute. Read more below to learn about our newest fellows and interns and their roles at QAIC!

This season our Fellows will develop and author research and publications on Arabic, where they will be translating content for the White House Historical Association. Fellows will present their completed work at QAIC’s annual Impart Summit. 

Meet The Fellows 

Aurora Speltz:

My name is Aurora Speltz, and I’m a second-year student at Western Kentucky University majoring in Arabic, International Affairs, and Spanish. I grew up in Richmond, a small town in Central Kentucky. I have a passion for language learning, which I believe opens cultural doors inaccessible through other means. I was a Rotary Youth Exchange Ambassador to Peru in the 2018-2019 academic year and spent the fall of 2021 studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. 

I believe that increasing our understanding of cultures other than our own is necessary in our increasingly globalized world, and is especially important for those of us who consider ourselves global citizens. I am excited to further QAIC’s mission of bridging the cultural gap between Arab and United States cultures. 

Kerby Gilstrap:

My name is Kerby Gilstrap and I am a senior at Western Kentucky University, located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I am majoring in Arabic and International Affairs with a concentration in sustainability. I grew up in Bowling Green which is a very diverse city with rural characteristics. Bowling Green is a designated refugee resettlement city, so we have a large Bosnian population, and we recently welcomed 350 Afghan refugees too. 

I began studying Arabic in August of 2018 when I became a student at WKU. After two semesters of Arabic, I decided to study abroad in Morocco in the summer of 2019 in an intensive language program. I studied in Morocco for two months. I also lived with a host family, and I experienced my first Ramadan. I am still in contact with my host family over three years later. 

Upon return to my university, I was inspired by my experiences abroad and I wanted to bring those immersive experiences to other students at my university, so I became president of the Arabic Club. I wanted all students, no matter language level, to have the chance to learn about the region, so I worked on transitioning our events to be more culturally focused. This also acted as a key recruitment tool to inspire students to study Arabic. 

I enjoy traveling, and I have traveled extensively throughout the United States; I have traveled to 36 out of the 50 states. As for international travel, I have only traveled to Morocco and Costa Rica when I studied abroad in these countries. I was actually studying abroad in Costa Rica during the spring of 2020, and I was brought home early due to Covid-19. 

I am now an ambassador with the WKU Global Office where I help students plan their experiences abroad and help our international student community become acclimated to campus life. We plan impactful programming for domestic and international students to participate in. Our goal is to give every student an international experience here in Bowling Green. 

I see myself as a storyteller. I like to share my experiences with others and to share others’ stories that I come across. I believe that learning about other cultures and creating more understanding between people will solve many of the world’s problems. 

As for my future plans, my goal is to work in sustainable development in the Arab World. I hope to elevate the voices of vulnerable populations who are often not consulted in policy-making. 

Khalid Alhajri:

Hello to everyone in the QAIC family! My name is Khalid Mubarak Alhajri and I’m a high school student from Qatar. I attend Qatar Academy Doha, a school part of Qatar Foundation following the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Born in 2004 and raised in Doha, I am an energetic young student that is excited to move to university soon and I want to study politics, international relations, and economics. I personally enjoy a multitude of hobbies including reading, show-jumping, skiing, and traveling! 

In late November of 2021, I, along with a group of peers from QF schools, was offered an amazing opportunity to visit Washington DC for the Qatar-America Year of Culture. During that trip, I was able to explore the wonderous American capital and I was also able to luckily learn about QAIC. As a future student of international relations, being able to see the first-hand positive impact of cultural exchange and diplomacy made me very excited to be able to work with QAIC as a fellow. I want to help foster an even greater cultural exchange between our two nations and be an active member of the cultural scene. We, as humans, are defined by our various rich cultures. Thus, seeing the traditional, time-honored conventions of Qatari culture extraordinarily mix and shift with elements of the ever-changing, dynamic American cultural scene for the past 20 years has been astounding. I cannot wait to see where it goes next and to be able to promote that cross-cultural exchange with QAIC. 

Zeina Mahmoud:

Hello! I’m Zeina Mahmoud, a senior at Qatar Academy Doha. Whilst growing up I’ve always heard that Arabic was such a beautiful language. I never really understood that. I was so warped as a kid with the idea of living the ‘American Dream’ that I stopped practicing Arabic at a young age. This changed for me when I went into high school. I finally realized and understood the true beauty of the Arabic language. As I kept reading more books and poems, this passion grew more and more. I am truly excited to work with QAIC to help other people come to this realization and help spread the beauty that is the Arabic language.