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Cultural Immersion: A Reflection

Posted By NYLC, Sunday, April 7, 2019

(This article was originally posted on October 1st, 2018 on

It’s 4:30am,

I feel so alive that I don’t feel tired anymore,

All I hear is birds chirping,

The cool breeze hits my body and sends chills through my veins,

Goosebumps make the hairs on my arm stand tall,

I prostrate to my lord,


Prostrating longer than I’m supposed to,

This moment does not feel real,

This mosque is heaven on earth and I don’t want to leave…

Every day for the rest of my life can be spent in …

…. Turkey,

A place where you can feel the love and peace in the air,

A place where the water current is never stationary,

80 million people with smiles on their faces,

Welcoming all people from different nationalities and races,

A place your taste buds have never tasted,

Where the love is Cherished and never wasted,

The call for prayer is loud and clear,

music to my soul.

First off, I want to thank everyone that made this trip possible for me and for the youth that joined. I am forever thankful to the good-hearted people that took the time, effort and money to put this into play. I would have never known about the other side of the globe that was so beautiful and worth every second of my time if it wasn’t for this trip. It has really empowered me as a Muslim American and I had a great time and the people that came with me knew I had a great time. I tried to soak in as much knowledge as possible and enjoy my time as much as possible too. I really do believe that trips like this with youth can improve relations between Turkey and the United States. You won’t find anything but love in Turkey and I say that because people there will go out of their way to have a conversation with you or even help you out when they do not know you.

Before I went on this trip I studied a bit about Turkey’s economics, its culture, and their way of life.  I found it quite intriguing but reading about a country is not the same as visiting. I was mind blown about their culture and how similar it was to Middle Eastern cultures I was familiar with, I am Palestinian.  I experienced many different artifacts and I loved how the Turks preserved their rich and valuable history. With everything going on in the world right now and the fact that their dollar is being attacked by neighboring Muslim countries, they still remain calm and find a lot of hope in building a Muslim nation in a secular country. I can tell the people of Turkey love their history because throughout every conversation I had with a Turkmen they made sure to stir in some history into the conversation. They name their children after sultans, and influential Islamic leaders that shaped Turkey.

I got the chance to visit many mosques that empowered me as a Muslim adult. To see how vast and big these mosques were and how there were so many of them everywhere really inspired me. Many sultans and powerful Islamic leaders lived, prayed, and taught in these lands and for that reason, as a Muslim American, I feel the need to carry the responsibility of Islam on my shoulders. These sultans and leaders had the power and authority to build huge mosques with four to six minarets shows me how very powerful and influential they were in their times. Something you would not see in the United States.

I believe that by coming on this trip and seeing, feeling, and hearing everything that I did was a great accomplishment. I had the opportunity to experience many things students my age have not experienced. I was able to do things they could not imagine, like praying in huge and beautiful mosques. These mosques had calligraphy from the Ottoman times on their ceilings and walls, it was so powerful. I was able to eat delicious food and really dive into Muslim and Turkish culture.

This trip has shaped my plans for the future. I am currently a business student at Century College, studying International Trade, specifically import and export. This trip has given me new insights on where I can start my career and what countries I could be dealing with in the trade industry. I learned things like what I can and can’t bring to America, what’s profitable and what’s not, and what can help both economies because that’s what trade is for. I definitely believe the trip has opened more doors for me, it was a great learning experience for both my career and my life.

This trip has inspired me to become an active Muslim and has strengthened my faith. I learned that throughout all the secularism that you’re around you should still be the person you want to be.  I want to be the Muslim and I want to be proud of who I am. I want to always strive to be the best person I can be and not worry so much about others’ opinions.  I need to just do the right thing. To take on this weight and knowledge as I return to Minnesota is my responsibility. I hope I can grab the attention of the Muslim community as this is also my responsibility. We Muslims need to unite and help each other hand in hand to raise awareness of who we really are and what it means to be a Muslim. We might have our careers, jobs, and life pressures but must also pay attention to how we use our resources, knowledge and careers to strengthen our community.

Tags:  events  reflection  youth leadership 

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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Posted By NYLC, Tuesday, March 26, 2019

(This article was originally posted on March 27, 2018 on

“Love. Not hate. We want to graduate!”

We are students. We want change!”

“Tell me what democracy looks like? THIS is what democracy looks like!”

 Among those chanting these demands in St. Paul, Minn. this past Saturday, during the March for Our Lives, was eighth-grader Lindsey, along with two friends and approximately 20,000 others. She had just participated in “Justice in Action” — the National Service-Learning Conference — in St. Paul 10 days earlier. Below, she reflects on the march with questions her mother posed.

 Q: Tell us about the event you attended. 

A: It was a march against gun violence. . . Students and parents got together to protest gun violence and then heard some people talk about the how we can fix the gun violence in this country.

Q: What did you notice? What stood out for you?

A: There was a vibe there of kindness. We were all there to support the same cause.

How did it feel to be there?

Just being there made me feel like I was part of something amazing that I can tell my grandkids that I took part in and be proud of. I knew I was helping make a difference in our history.

Why did you go? Why was this important to you?

I went to this march because I don’t want to worry everyday if I’m going to be shot or if I come home and find out that my best friend is dead. I shouldn’t have to worry about that. No parent should have to worry about that, or lose their kid due to something that could be so simply fixed.

What did you learn? How are you changed by taking part in this event?

It was truly amazing seeing all those people there. I learned that together people can really make a difference. Going to this [march] has made me want to participate more to make sure that every other kid feels safe in school including me.

What will you do now? What are your next steps?

I would for sure go to another one in the future. I also plan to do the school walkout in April. I am ready for something to change.

As Lindsey’s mother said in her reflection on the event:Amongst so many memorable moments and displays of authentic youth leadership, something that stood out for me was one of the student speakers who closed with a quote from Angela Davis: ‘I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.’ While the fight for stronger gun laws will likely be a marathon rather than a sprint, I have no doubt that young people have the focus and persistence to see this through.”

Tags:  civic engagement  march for our lives  protest  reflection  service-learning  youth leadership  youth voice 

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