Students in the Field: Amina Mohamed

August 05, 2019
Amina Mohamed walks back to her homestay on the last day of her internship.
Amina Mohamed walks back to her homestay on the last day of her internship.

Every summer, global health students at Duke University travel to countries around the world to do field research in a variety of topics within global health—including environmental health, women’s reproductive health, infectious disease, health policy and more. 

DGHI caught up with undergraduate student Amina Mohamed to see what she’s been up to with the DukeEngage Jordan program. As part of the program, Mohamed spent time in the field researching the best approaches to expanding access to healthcare for Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan.

DGHI: What inspired you to pursue THIS project?

Mohamed: I’m currently wrapping up my last week in Jordan where I have been interning at the Microfund for Women (MFW) for the past eight weeks. MFW is a non-profit microfinance organization that specializes in providing financial services, including the provision of microloans, to low-income business owners. The organization also offers non-financial services such as health education and life insurance. At the organization, I’ve been conducting research on the best approaches to expanding access to healthcare for Syrian refugees. I’m in Amman along with my DukeEngage Jordan cohort led by Dr. Raed Al-tabini, academic director for the SIT Study Abroad program, Jordan: Water Innovation Lab and Imam Abdullah Antepli, Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs and senior fellow at the Duke Office of Civic Engagement.

My reasons for partaking in an internship in Jordan and with MFW are multi-faceted. My interest in working in Jordan stems from my experiences in working with refugees for the past several years in the Raleigh-Durham area. I hoped that by working in Jordan, a major host country for refugees, I would gain a unique insight into refugee challenges to further inform and support my work with refugees at home. 

I’ve also always had an interest in learning more about barriers to healthcare access after being exposed to it in my community and from my travels abroad to Somalia, my parents’ home country. My interests motivated me to study global health and public policy at Duke with the hope that it will inform my work as a physician in the future, helping underserved members of my community. My global health courses at Duke furthered my passion for learning more about health disparities and ways to overcome them. These experiences, interests and aspirations led me to pursue an internship where I can contribute to helping reduce the access to healthcare gap and work with refugee issues. Through my research at MFW, I’ve been able to combine my interests and gain more insight into the healthcare landscape of refugees in Jordan along with the prominent obstacles to their access to health services. 

DGHI: What’s one thing you’ve learned about the community/culture you’re in this summer?

Mohamed: Arab culture is an extremely welcoming one. I’ve encountered Arab hospitality from a variety of people ranging from my co-workers to my taxi drivers. Every single person I’ve interacted with has given me a warm greeting and taken me under their wing. Arab hospitality is demonstrated daily, as the most common word you hear in Jordan is “welcome,” even from those who know little English. This hospitality is also shown in the conversations I have with my taxi drivers on the way to work, with my co-workers who have created a welcoming environment for me and with the members of my host family who always try to serve me tea and sweets. Hospitality is an essential part of Arab culture and is a factor that has positively contributed to my experience in Jordan. 

DGHI: What’s the best piece of advice you received when preparing for your fieldwork?

Mohamed: Be flexible. In the field, you might be conducting some unexpected work or receive a new opportunity, so it’s important to always be adaptable and willing to try new things. You never know what that experience can lead to or what you can learn from it. These new opportunities can allow you to meet new people and gain insightful new experiences during your project.

I’ve taken this advice to heart while in Jordan. In my first month here, I had the opportunity to visit different MFW branches in Jordan which has exposed me to life in different cities. This new experience further exposed me to the local culture and allowed me to become more engaged in the community.