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Alumna Yasmin Younis reclaims her identity

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After punching her fist into the air for the Black Power Movement and the Palestinian Crisis, alumna Yasmin Younis receives a standing ovation from the audience after her speech came to an end. Younis was chosen to give the commencement speech out of five other finalists after presenting to a committee. “I couldn't believe that people out there thought I was as inspirational as some incredible people,” Younis said. “Just to be recognized and compared to them is such an honor.”

After punching her fist into the air for the Black Power Movement and the Palestinian Crisis, alumna Yasmin Younis receives a standing ovation from the audience after her speech came to an end. Younis was chosen to give the commencement speech out of five other finalists after presenting to a committee. “I couldn't believe that people out there thought I was as inspirational as some incredible people,” Younis said. “Just to be recognized and compared to them is such an honor.”

Michael D. Spencer

Michael D. Spencer

After punching her fist into the air for the Black Power Movement and the Palestinian Crisis, alumna Yasmin Younis receives a standing ovation from the audience after her speech came to an end. Younis was chosen to give the commencement speech out of five other finalists after presenting to a committee. “I couldn't believe that people out there thought I was as inspirational as some incredible people,” Younis said. “Just to be recognized and compared to them is such an honor.”

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As you scroll through The 74 website on 7 of This Year’s Most Memorable—and Inspiring—Graduation Speeches you see Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter and alumna Yasmin Younis.

Younis’ speech focused on how she reclaimed her identity after she hid her identity as a Muslim after 9/11.

“[Attending Boston University] was a key indicator that I was different from everyone else,” Younis said. “No one really knew how to or cared how to correctly pronounce my name, and that really hurt. I felt the best and easiest way to deal with it was by anglicizing my name so people wouldn’t butcher it or immediately tell I was Arab or Muslim.”

While attending school at Boston University (BU), Younis traveled to Jordan for the summer where she was overwhelmed by the unfamiliar environment.

“I studied abroad in Jordan, it was the first time in my life where I spent a substantial period of time in the Middle East, surrounded by my heritage and religion,” Younis said. “It was there that I truly realized how blessed I am to have such a beautiful, lively culture.”

While she became more confident about who she was in her new home, she struggled with intense coursework when she returned to BU that pushed her far more than expected.

“Academically it was extremely rigorous and I’d spend a lot of time working extremely hard and not seeing any payoff, which forced me to accept that I’m not exactly perfect at everything,” Younis said. “It was my first time living far away from my family, so I had to navigate living in a city far from home. I experienced anxiety, because of the stress that comes with juggling work, school and everything in between.”

Honestly, I don’t think I’d be friends with the person I was a few years ago because I was so different and insecure, but now I’m proud of the woman I’ve become and I’ve become an inspiration to my friends, family and people all across the world from all ages.”

— Alumna Yasmin Younis

Even after pushing through difficult school work at BU, Younis was rejected multiple times for internships.

“I kept applying because I knew I had to at least try,” Younis said. “The only thing that was certain was if I didn’t try applying then I definitely wasn’t going to land an internship, but if I did try, there was always the possibility that I would.”

By surrounding herself with friends that she was able to relate more to gave her the nostalgia of an American-born Muslim that she was missing all along.  

“I met two of my best friends, Hind and Dina, at BU,” Younis said. “They pushed me to embrace my Iraqi side and forced me to speak Arabic with them. An ideal night with the two of them was hanging out at Hind’s apartment, listening to Arabic music and discussing the nuanced experiences we faced as Arab Muslim women in this day and age. Other than my childhood best friend, they were my first Arab Muslim friends who really understood me.”

But to Younis, the most difficult obstacle was learning to accept herself.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be friends with the person I was a few years ago because I was so different and insecure, but now I’m proud of the woman I’ve become and I’ve become an inspiration to my friends, family and people all across the world from all ages,” Younis said. “I became the woman I needed, but didn’t have at a young age.”

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About the Writer
Ridwan Oyebamiji, STAFF WRITER

Grade:  11

Years on Staff:  2

If you were a fictional character, who would you be?  Luke Skywalker

Does the toilet paper go over or under on...

1 Comment

One Response to “Alumna Yasmin Younis reclaims her identity”

  1. Zainab Oyebamiji on October 20th, 2018 8:40 am

    Ridwan, this piece of work is very help for so many people in general. You emphasize the power of connecting ones present to its primary source. This goes a long way in shaping the future and whom a person becomes. Because from it, person gains an amazing strength that fuels the life struggle. Kudos Ridwan!

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Alumna Yasmin Younis reclaims her identity