Lea Lahoud's illustration for published essay.

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New challenges | New adventures

Sharing how she overcame challenges lands VCU graduate student in final running for International Student Voice Magazine scholarship

Contact: V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-3636
vrrussell@vcu.edu 

An illustration by Lea Lahoud that accompanies her published essay.
As a Catholic nun, Lea Lahood had to adjust to not wearing her religious habit in a clinical setting. Her essay about overcoming this and other challenges while studying in the U.S. has won her a spot as a finalist in the International Student Voice Magazine scholarship competition.

Richmond, VA (May 1, 2018) — Lea Lahoud, a graduate student in the Department of Patient Counseling in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Allied Health Professions has been named a finalist in the spring 2018 International Student Voice Magazine scholarship competition.

Nearly 300 applications were received for the competition, which involved submitting an essay on the topic of ‘overcoming challenges while studying in the United States,’ and eleven finalists have been named.

“The topic was interesting to me because I’ve had to overcome a number of hurdles just to come here,” said Lea, who is from Lebanon and currently works as a chaplain at VCU Health as part of her clinical training.

“Typically, when people from my country want to study in the area of religion, they go to Italy (Rome), but I wanted a different experience,” she said. “I came to VCU because I wanted to do something unique. I had to search for a program that was more applied, do it from a distance, and then take a big leap to get here.”

In her essay, Lea touched on several of the obstacles she has faced since starting her master’s program last May, including language barriers, understanding cultural differences and being so far from her family.

“It is true that my English is not really bad, but it is also true that some people speak extremely fast and use a myriad of slang that I do not understand,” she wrote. “People may also have a different accent that my ear is not yet accustomed to hearing.”

“I used to get irritated and frustrated whenever someone spoke to me and I did not understand,” she continued. “Now, I just try to be humble and ask people to repeat, in other words, what they said, telling them that I am not from here and my English is weak. This way, I learn new slang and I get to understand what has been said.”

Getting used to living in the U.S. has also been a learning experience for Lea. “My grandpa used to say: ‘If you drive in Lebanon, you can drive anywhere,’” she wrote. “Driving in Lebanon is kind of reckless...it is true that you can drive anywhere, but my grandpa had no idea about the importance of a driver’s license in the U.S.”

“I had to retake the DMV driving test twice in order to learn that a stop sign in the U.S. really means stop, not rolling wheels, which is very common in my country.”

With her family in a time zone seven hours ahead, Lea has had to find unique ways to connect with others during her time here. “My home is fifty-eight thousand miles away, which makes it also impossible for me to enjoy a cup of coffee with my twin brother,” she wrote. “In order to overcome this challenge, I’ve found other ways that help me enjoy my stay here and benefit from new experiences. I’ve met many new people who have made me feel that I am at home.”

“Another thing that I miss in my country is my bees,” Lea shared. “I am a beekeeper and have forty hives that I truly miss. In order to keep remembering my bees, I’ve decorated my room with bee posters, quotes, and figurines that inspire me.”

Lea considers herself someone who is always open to new adventures in life. “Even though you face challenges, you can learn from them,” she said. “It adds to your life and gives you a different perspective.”

Lea will learn if she is the final recipient of the ISVM scholarship in late-May.

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