Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Nabil Khan ’07, along with Veronica Chao Lim ’07 and Tracy Kwon ’07, were recently awarded the prestigious Fulbright Grant. The Daily Gazette sat down with Nabil to discuss his plans to study in Morocco.
Daily Gazette: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Fulbright Grant?
Nabil Khan: The Fulbright Program started in 1946 by Senator [J. William] Fulbright of Arkansas. It was right after WWII, and there was a general concern in the U.S. that Americans should know more about other countries. And other people should know more about Americans. The idea was to get to some kind of mutual understanding, so that countries could avoid or end wars… obviously that hasn’t happened, but that was the idea.
DG: What sorts of projects does the grant fund?
NK: They fund both people to go to other countries, and for international students to come here. You can choose to teach English, take classes at a university and get a degree abroad, or do your own research project, which is what I’m doing.
DG: What will your research focus on?
NK: I plan to kind of explore the role of psychology and psychiatry in urban Moroccan society. I want to study how different groups of people view it. So I’ll be interviewing doctors and nurses, but also religious leaders. My focus is seeing how Western ideas of medicine and health are perceived, and how those views are changing as the society becomes more developed. And I also want to know how those ideas differ across classes.
DG: How did you become interested in this?
NK: I’m a Psych major. In a lot of classes that I’ve taken, and also in the general atmosphere at Swat, there is a great deal of critique of Western ideas, and so I want to explore that further. But also, I’ve learned so much about the medicine and science from a Western perspective, but there is a rich Islamic tradition in the sciences as well, and I’d like to explore that.
DG: Why Morocco?
NK: Traditionally, when people want an alternate perspective to the West, they study Japan and China , because they are supposedly seen as the opposite. But I don’t have the language skills to do that, and I’d also like to do something that isn’t being done. I think there is that idea of the Muslim world being torn between the East and West, so there is some interesting tension to explore. Also, Morocco is bordered by Africa, Europe, the Middle East, so even beyond psychology, it is a great place to be from a cultural standpoint.
DG: How long will you be staying? What exactly will you be doing?
NK: I plan to spend 3 months just studying Arabic, and then 9 months doing my research. So about a year. I plan to be studying schizophrenic patients, so I’ll be visiting hospitals, talking to doctors and nurses, talking to patients and their families. I have a mentor who will be guiding me and helping me meet people. Talking to medical personnel will be relatively easy, but with patients it’ll be a little more tricky.
DG: What do you expect you’ll find?
NK: I feel like the biggest difference between here and there will occur because religion and family come into play so much more often, and it’ll point to a different way of looking at the self. We think of the West and East having these dichotomies where the West is more about the individual, the East is more about the family. But I don’t think those dichotomies are necessarily fully true, and I think I’ll see a lot more of a combination of the two perspectives in Morocco.
DG: What will you do with your findings?
NK: Hopefully I will publish them in a journal.
DG: And, finally! What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
NK: Strawberry– but if that’s too boring, I also like butterscotch.