Home Away from Home: Dinah Lakehal ’18

Dinah Lakehal ’18 talks about Rollins, studying in the U.S., and the items she brought with her from Morocco to make her stay in Winter Park feel more like home.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

I am from… Casablanca, Morocco.

I speak… Arabic, French, and English.

I am majoring in… political science and economics.

I chose Rollins because… I really wanted a liberal arts school in a warm location. I wanted a core program strong in humanities.

My first day of classes was… different from what I imagined it to be. I remember having four classes that Monday. I started out with 8 a.m. Spanish class, followed by my RCC (which I was very confused about at first—we were studying mysticism?), and then a politics course, and a philosophy one. I was so excited that college was going to be studying what I loved rather than the standard curriculum like in high school.

After I graduate from Rollins, I want to… go to law school. I’m not sure what type of law I want to study, but already as a freshman, my econ professors have instilled in me a love of economics and business, so I’m probably going to end up in corporate law. That’s what I’m thinking, but I’m still not sure. I’d love to go to Columbia [University] because that’s where my brother is.

I would describe myself as the type of student who… is involved in classroom discussions. I always like to be academically challenged. I’m definitely a procrastinator, but I blame that on Rollins’ beautiful campus. It always makes me want to be outdoors. I mean, just the fact that we live with all of our friends—my best friends live in the same dorm as me—and it’s always sunny outside and we want to go to the pool or the lake.

The professors who have had the most impact on me are… Dr. Eren Tatari and Dr. Rachel Newcomb. Dr. Tatari convinced me to major in political science, and her feminist side is something I can relate to. And Dr. Newcomb knows so much about different cultures and actually makes research interesting. She’s also married to a Moroccan, so that’s always a bonus. They’re both great professors in the sense that they guided me through the process of writing a paper, and Dr. Newcomb is an anthropologist and I was never interested in that field but she definitely instilled an interest in that.

I can’t live without… a variety of food. I’m so picky with food. I can’t eat the same thing. I need a variety. Like in the campus center, I’m always charged so much because I want a little bit of the pasta, I want a little bit of the meat and sushi. I want a little bit of everything. So I run out of R-Card money very easily. Couscous would be my favorite meal ever.

If I could share a coffee with anyone, it would be… the Artic Monkeys. They’re my favorite band, and they have so many interesting stories. For example, “When the Sun Goes Down,” one of their famous songs, inspired a documentary on prostitution. The fact that their last song, “R U Mine?,” which is one of my all-time favorite songs, was inspired by Drake and Lil Wayne—how random is that?

I am passionate about… traveling. It makes me comes alive in the sense that it forces me to be self-reflective and aware of who I am and who others are around me. My parents love to travel, so I’ve been to at least 30 countries—all over Asia, most countries in Europe, and all over North America. I’m actually going abroad next fall in Buenes Aires, so I’m finally going to get to travel around a lot in South America.

One thing people should know about me is… that I love negotiation and argument.

The saddest day of my life… is yet to come. On the bright side, it means my life has been good, but on the downside I dread the day that a tragic event will occur, like the death of a loved one.

I always smile when… hear Arabic expressions and jokes. They’re usually very witty (and pretty lame), but they recount thousands of years of our history and practices and they’re just very funny.

The thing I like most about myself is… my open-mindedness. It leads to better relationships with people, especially in a liberal arts school where you’ve got a wide range of people, different religions, different cultural practices, different sexual orientations. 

I felt most alone when… I first moved here. I was in culture shock, and I didn’t know if I could fully relate to life in the U.S. But that quickly changed as I started school and made some amazing friends and I grew to appreciate the differences between the U.S. and Morocco.

One of the first things I remember about America is… the quantity of food that is served. Back home, quality is valued over quantity and portions are smaller, so that’s just one thing that I noticed. The first night I got here, we went to The Coop, and there’s just a lot of food.

One thing people should understand about Morocco is… that it isn’t an oppressed country because it’s Muslim. In fact, Islam doesn’t mean oppression.

One of the biggest cultural obstacles for me has been… getting used to speaking only English. Because I grew up speaking three languages, I’m used to using all three in the same sentence and sometimes it’s hard for me to express myself only in English.

The thing I miss most about Morocco is… the balance between the traditional values and customs blended with the modern infrastructure. For example, it’s typical to wander through bazaars and bargain with shopkeepers and then if you keep walking a couple more blocks, you end up at the world’s fifth biggest mall. I love the blend of both. It’s great cultural diversity.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Inside her room

1 | Grandma’s perfume
Before I left for Rollins, my grandmother gave me this perfume to keep as a memory of her. It smells spicy and kind of like vanilla.

2 | Quran
I keep the Quran in my room because it’s very calming.

3 | Favorite book
Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. I had no idea it was about Morocco at first, so it was a nice surprise.

4 | Souvenir
My roommate, who loves anything to do with marine biology, gave me this turtle after a trip to the Cayman Islands.

5 | Moroccan scarf
My favorite scarf, it’s a traditional Moroccan scarf, and I usually wear it all the time.

6 | Bracelet
One of my favorite bracelets, it’s a typical Moroccan bracelet that’s full of colors.

7 | Family photo
This photo of me, my brother, my mom, and grandmother was taken awhile ago, but I like how my mother and grandmother look so alike here.

8 | Candle
I am obsessed with candles. This one in particular has the hand of Fatima, which became an even more popular symbol in Morocco after a few terrorist attacks. It essentially means “Don’t touch my homeland.”