Growing up a natural citizen in America is better than winning the lottery, if you ask Texas State international studies alumnus Abdual Muhialdin. He would know—he has been all around the world and still wants to represent America.
Muhialdin was recently recognized as Texas State’s first Rangel Fellow, an organization that aims to promote diversity and achievement to those who want to work in foreign service and international affairs. His fellowship will finance a two-year graduate program at his choice of Georgetown or Cornell University.
Muhialdin grew up in Colorado, but his parents are originally from Baghdad, Iraq, where he spent much of his childhood and grew up speaking Arabic, his first language. He said American debate over the Middle East is what sparked his desire to work in foreign policy.
“Just by being born in the U.S., you’ve won the lottery,” Muhialdin said. “Over here (in America) even though things are difficult, it would be much more difficult if you were born in Iraq or if you were born in Syria. Every time I go (to Iraq), it’s very humbling and I’m very appreciative to be an American citizen.”
After graduating from Texas State in 2016, Muhialdin has since interned with the White House Internship Program in the Office of Presidential Correspondence and United Way.
Once he has finished his studies, Muhialdin has a guaranteed position as a U.S. Diplomat. He plans on moving to Washington D.C. in May 2019 to begin an internship with Congress before he moves on to graduate studies.
“How great is our country that, even though it feels like everything is falling apart or going the wrong way, an individual with my name, with parents from Baghdad, Iraq, can go still be a part of this administration and learn a little bit of how the executive branch works,” Muhialdin said. “It really showcases our values are still very strong as a nation.”
Muhialdin applied for the Rangel Fellowship four times and interviewed for it twice before receiving the award. He spent time working with Ronald Johnson, an American history professor at Texas State and former Pickering Fellow, before turning in his final application.
Although Muhialdin never took any of Johnson’s classes before, he showed up to the professor’s office hours one day in search of guidance.
Johnson said he was impressed with Muhialdin’s desire to succeed and that it reflects well on Texas State students.
“His experience proves that Texas State is the kind of place where dreams can come true,” Johnson said. “Not only was he a dreamer, he was a worker. He didn’t accept no for answer.”
In the end game, Muhialdin’s dream job is to serve as an Ambassador to Iraq.
Muhialdin said when he was awarded the fellowship, his father told him that was the reason their family came to America: for their son to succeed and have the life they wanted for him.
“It wasn’t too easy growing up as an Iraqi American living in the United States,” Muhialdin said. “It felt, at times, that I wasn’t fully part of the picture here and that my family wasn’t welcome. This is home to me at the end of the day.”
Jesse Kingsley, Muhialdin’s brother-in-law, said Muhialdin is one of the few people that is overtly passionate about what they love and want to pursue, career-wise.
“He has different ways of looking at things,” Kingsley said. “He’s always positive. He’s got a really good outlook on life and he’s that person you enjoy having around.”
Muhialdin said he is very excited to be the first Texas State Rangel Fellow, but does not want to be the last.
“I did it, but hopefully another student does it the next year and then another one the next year,” Muhialdin said. “It’s great to be the first one to open the door, but hopefully people keep coming in that door.”