By Beker Karadaghy
Middle Eastern Student Association’s Story at Saint Louis University
The Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) was founded by a group of Saint Louis University students who wanted to create a place where Arab-American students would be able to meet each other and find a group of people to associate themselves with since most of them typically felt out of place at the university. In the beginning, it was more of a hangout, essentially, with all the people within MESA being very close friends, but it has since then evolved into an all-inclusive organization dedicated to not only creating a safe space for Arab-Americans but also serving as a means to break down commonly perpetuated stereotypes of Middle Eastern culture and showing the general student body what we are truly like.
Some of our more notable events include Contributions, Shadows of Conflict, and the Gala. Contributions is an event where we have individual e-board members research different subjects which people of Middle Eastern descent have contributed to and share their knowledge through a poster presentation. One example of this may be the history of algebra and how its study was influenced by Muhammad Al-Karaji. Shadows of Conflict is personally my favorite event along with the Gala; we reach out to a few SLU students who we know are immigrants and host a student panel where they relate their experiences moving to America and what it was like growing up in a war-torn country. In the past few years specifically we’ve been able to get a crowd of about 120 people which makes it all the more impactful for people who don’t know what it’s really like living in Palestine under Israeli occupation. The Gala is another event which I find particularly enjoyable; it serves as a break from the serious tone the majority of our other events have and allows us to simply showcase Middle Eastern culture. In the past, we’ve hired traditional Middle Eastern dance groups and instrumentalists to perform a few acts, following it up with a traditional Middle Eastern dinner and then ending the night with an open dance floor.
Students typically find out about our organization through SLU’s club fair at the beginning of each fall semester or by word of mouth; we also have a variety of social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter that people would be able to find us on to find out more information about our events and if they wish, where they can be added to the GroupMe, where we regularly post updates for the club.
Personal Experience as a Member of MESA
It’s been really eye-opening to say the least. Even though I am Middle Eastern, I’ve grown up in America my whole life, so I haven’t really had the experience of truly living in my home country and seeing how the conditions there really are, besides when reading upon it. Talking to others and seeing how grateful they are for being able to come to America allows me to be thankful for what I have as well and has allowed for me to form a really solid group of friends who all have the same ideals as I do.
Talking to others and seeing how grateful they are for being able to come to America allows me to be thankful for what I have as well and has allowed for me to form a really solid group of friends who all have the same ideals as I do.
Favorite MESA Moment
My sophomore year, we decided to have a game night but were not really sure what would be the best way to attract people to show up. We decided to include a Super Smash Bros tournament and have a 50$ gift card be the prize for winning. Unfortunately, the other e-board members were not willing to contribute to the prize, but I was confident enough in my own skills to win the tournament and make sure that I would not actually lose my money. What I did not realize, however, is that word of this tournament made its way to SLU’s e-sports team, where the #3 Smash Player in Missouri was the captain of the team. You can imagine my shock and embarrassment when I had to play him in the first round of the tournament, when I realized very quickly I was going to lose the money I had invested into the tournament. The rest of the e-board have had a really fun time making sure I do not forget about that tournament.
The Importance of Organizations like MESA
It’s very easy for people today to stay associated with people very similar to themselves and close themselves off to the rest of the world. Especially with social media, people typically follow those who have similar ideals as themselves, only further polarizing their viewpoints. Exposing yourself to other perspectives and cultures allows you to gain more insight as to how people view the world, how it has affected them, and opens your eyes to the different ways people are forced to live. Ignorance has been the root cause of many issues plaguing today’s society and exposure is one way to help overcome this issue.
Clubs are a good way to give yourself a break from the stressful lifestyle associated with college. There’s this constant pressure that everything you do has to in some way be beneficial to your future and what field you may hope to go into when in reality this isn’t truly the case. I do encourage people to join professional clubs that align with their future jobs but also a few for activities they truly enjoy doing such as reading or photography to help de-stress.
Clubs are a good way to give yourself a break from the stressful lifestyle associated with college.
About the Author
Beker Karadaghy is a biology major on the pre-med track at Saint Louis University. He hopes to apply for medical school at the end of this upcoming year and hopefully have an idea of where he’ll be going by the midway point of his senior year.