Jew You Should Know: Yael Nagar

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By Jamie Weissman   

It’s not everyday you meet someone who’s traveled around Africa. But for junior economics and government & politics major Yael Nagar, living in Africa was just her fall semester.

Samantha Medney/The Mitzpeh

Samantha Medney/The Mitzpeh

Nagar, a Potomac resident, always knew she wanted to study abroad, but it was just a matter of where. However, upon learning she was a recipient of the Boren scholarship, one that send students to study abroad and learn a language, her choice was made: Zanzibar.

“ I applied on a whim and the program I got was to learn Swahili in Zanzibar”, Nagar, who is minoring in human development, said.

During her time in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, Nagar was enrolled at the State University of Zanzibar where she became fluent in Swahili and immersed herself into African culture.

“ It’s just amazing. The people that you meet are so full of life. They are so giving. It’s a totally different experience. You’re never really able to communicate the depth of your experience and what it meant to you,” Nagar said.

Though this was the longest time Nagar had spent in Africa, it was certainly not her first time to the continent. Nagar, who has also traveled to France, Italy and Israel, went to Uganda when she was a freshman, a trip that inspired her to one day return to Africa.

“ We were supposed to improve community organizing and things like that so people would know about public services. I fell in love with it,” she said of the trip.

Although it seems Nagar, who traveled around Tanzania and Kenya once her semester ended, has caught the travel bug, she is for staying in College Park where she is the president of Challah For Hunger, a club that bakes and sells challah and donates the money to American Jewish World Service and other hunger relief organizations.

“ She is super passionate and gets committed to a lot of awesome clubs and organizations. She is a leader in almost all of the clubs she’s involved in,” sophomore English major Talia Berday-Sacks, who is involved in Challah for Hunger, said.

Besides Challah For Hunger, Nagar is hoping to start a female empowerment group. Though she says “ not much has happened yet” she is planning to make the group one where female high school students can come and talk about subjects they may not want to discuss with their parents.

The idea comes after her travels in Uganda, where she says she saw instances of female oppression.

“ We never spoke to any of the women in our community and it was kind of considered inappropriate,” Nagar said.

Nagar one day hopes to return to Africa, and once she graduates she may just get to. The Boren scholarship requires recipients to get a job with the government and Nagar says she may be interested in working with the Foreign Service.

“ I would like to have a job where for the most part I’m staying on one place but it’ll also send me abroad for two or three weeks at a time,” she said.

Wherever she chooses, junior psychology major Akiva Lichtenberg, who met Nagar in high school, is sure she won’t have trouble along the way.

He said, “ she is one of the most friendly, amicable people I know. It’s very normal for her to greet everyone with a positive demeanor.”

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