Tameem Al Talabani (GHD’18) Brings Commitment to Refugees to Georgetown and Beyond

Tameem Al Talabani
Global Human Development Program, Class of 2018
Baghdad, Iraq
Languages: Arabic, English, American Sign Language
Summer 2017: Interned with the Lutheran Social Services Nations Capital Area, and with the International Refugee Assistance Project
Favorite Class: Economics of Development: Growth, with Dr. Steven Radelet
On-Campus Activities:
Research Assistant for Dr. Rochelle Davis, Director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, studying Access to Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq.
Non-GU Activities:
Consultant with the National Presbyterian Church in Washington DC for a “Refugee Family” project.


May 2, 2018
by Kristijan Fidanovski

Tameem Al Talabani (GHD’18) came to Georgetown’s Global Human Development program looking to explore the ethics of humanitarian response and the challenges facing humanitarians in politically and socially charged areas. Al Talabani, a native of Baghdad, Iraq, spent seven years working for the Jesuit Refugee Service throughout the Middle East before coming to graduate school.

Thinking back on his two years at Georgetown, Al Talabani’s favorite memory is from Day 1. “I remember how the orientation made me feel anxious yet very hopeful that I will develop a lifelong friendship with my classmates during my two years here,” says Al Talabani.

Al Talabani and his American Sign Language Classmates and Teacher at Gallaudet University

Al Talabani has had multiple mentors who significantly impacted his experience over the past two years, including faculty members Steven Radelet, Rochelle Davis, and Joseph Sassoon. Calling Radelet “a man for others,” Al Talabani appreciated that he was “always there when you had a problem or a question. Especially for me since I am an international student and had to seek his support from time to time.”

Radelet’s teaching methods also motivated Al Talabani in the GHD core course: Economics of Development: Growth. “Although my learning process was difficult at first because my economics background was somewhat shaky, Dr. Radelet has delivered the subject in a way that makes you both interested and encourages you to apply it to your own experiences. In my case, I applied his lectures to Iraq, and somehow things were making sense. I understood the field of economics more generally, and his class paved the way towards future classes that were easier for me to comprehend.”

Dr. Rochelle Davis, Director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, is another source of inspiration for Al Talabani. He got to know her while working as her research assistant on a longitudinal study that proposes durable solutions for persons internally displaced by ISIS in Iraq. “Not only was [she] a good supervisor,” Al Talabani says, “but an inspirational leader and true salt of the earth.”

Al Talabani practicing American Sign Language with his GHD classmate Molly Bernstein (GHD’18)

Sassoon inspired Al Talabani in the classroom, where he took Sassoon’s Refugees of the Middle East and Politics and History of Iraq classes, which “are not merely about reading and reflecting,” according to Al Talabani, but ethics. Sassoon “also attempts to challenge his students with thought-provoking questions and ethical dilemmas.”

Yet, Al Talabani’s most unique class has come outside of the requirements of his program. “With generous support from SFS, I studied American Sign Language at Gallaudet University to help refugees who have lost their hearing due to explosions.”

Al Talabani focused his activities outside of the classroom on refugees, interning with the Lutheran Social Services Nation’s Capital Area, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and volunteering as a consultant with the National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. for the “Refugee Family” project. “As part of this project, I provided translation and advice to a refugee family which had been resettled in the U.S.,” Al Talabani explains.

Al Talabani speaking about the challenges faced by refugees living in Urban areas in the Middle East

Al Talabani appreciates the sense of community at Georgetown as well as the support network. “The Georgetown community is very engaging and well connected. I have met wonderful people and leaders who inspired me to search further and ask questions. I was also impressed with the library services, the writing center, and the general support that is provided to international students. I am truly glad to be a part of this community.”

Al Talabani has truly made the most of his student life in Washington, D.C. ”I usually do long walks around Washington D.C. Since I live in Dupont, I walk to the Washington Monument and to the Mall and all the way to Georgetown and take pictures of everything that I find interesting. Which is pretty much everything, so I have to get multiple SD cards! Additionally, the music scene here is wonderful and I had the privilege to go to many concerts, such as those by U2, Guns N’ Roses, Yanni, Joan Baez, and Reggie Watts. Just a few days ago I went to a Pink Floyd Tribute concert, which was a magical experience.”

As graduation approaches, Al Talabani wonders what he will miss the most about Georgetown. “I think I will miss the adrenaline rush that I get knowing that I will walk into the front gate and see John Carroll’s statue. Usually, I would stand at the front gate and stare at the wonderful main building before heading to the library or to my classes.”

Looking ahead, Al Talabani is determined to build on his academic focus and work experience during his time at Georgetown. “I am planning to stay in D.C. for a while to understand the whole system of resettlement and services for refugees. I am hoping that I will find a satisfactory job in the end.”

Al Talabani has one message for prospective GHD students. “You might not know it at first, but this program is family. The staff, students, and affiliates will become your family and lifelong friends. Everything else comes along.”