For our Student Highlight this week, we interviewed Omar Alani (he/him/his), a sophomore from Malden, Massachusetts concentrating in Neuroscience. Read more below:

How are you? How’s your year going so far?
I’m doing well! This is a little different. I had surgery in August on my vocal cords to remove a cyst and since then I have been instructed not to talk. It’s genuinely a unique experience for me. Communication is much more difficult, but taking ASL this semester has taught me new ways of communication which is really fun. I’ve learned to listen more this year, something everyone should be actively practicing. That’s the only way we can learn what our family, friends, communities, etc. need. Listening to ourselves is just as important to know who we are, what our strengths are, where we can improve, to know how we can support those around us.

What does it mean to you to be UFLi?
To be UFLi means to be part of a community that uplifts one another to raise our voices and make sure we are heard. Although we may come from similar backgrounds we all have a unique story and being part of the UFLi center means our stories are heard and celebrated making us feel comfortable and welcome.

Can you tell me a bit about what you’re involved with on campus? Why are you involved with those communities?
I am involved with BRYTE, QuestBridge, PALs through Bonner, and the Muslim Student Association. I am involved with each organization because each community holds a marginalized identity where their voices are almost never heard.

Being Syrian myself and witnessing the direct effect the Syrian Crisis had on my family led me to join BRYTE to tutor refugee youth and empower them to have the ambition to use their voice.

As a QuestBridge Scholar, I understand that the voices of the low-income community are not represented enough in today’s world so I became involved to empower students like me to advocate for their rights and feel welcome in places they may have never imagined themselves to be, like Brown University. 

I work with PALs as a tutor for disabled adults because they deserve the same attention and happiness everyone else enjoys in the world and by spending quality, intimate time with them, one can truly bring positive change into their lives.

Working as in intern with the chaplain of the MSA I try to make the muslim community at Brown more diverse and inclusive to bring about different perspectives and ideas that otherwise may never been heard. In doing so, I hope to create a stronger community that empowers one another to again speak up and talk about issues that muslims face in our communities so that we can work together to solve these issues.

What community has been most influential in making Providence feel like home?
Going to my BRYTE family’s house makes me feel like I’m at home. Being able to speak arabic to my BRYTE family and share dinner with them reminded of my family. The smell of the house, the food, the people, everything reminds me of home. These refugee families that welcome us into their homes so openly and so warmly that it would make anyone feel at home.

Favorite memory at Brown?
My favorite memory at Brown would have to be when my friends surprised me with Celtics tickets on my birthday. They took me to the mall first to get me a Celtics shirt then drove me up to the game. After the game, we went out for burgers. This meant a lot to me because I never celebrated my birthday like that before. I’ll always remember that day.

Advice you’d give your freshman year self?
Do what you love and what you’re interested in because that’s the best time to explore and understand who you are as a person. Through exploration, we discover our true motivations, ambitions, and surround ourselves with the right people where everyone’s growth is mutually supported.