First Omani student shares her national pride

Sophomore Isra al Hashimi is proud of both her Muslim faith and Omani heritage.


Christa Dutton, Staff Writer

When you see sophomore Isra al Hashimi walking into Farrell Hall or walking around Reynolda Gardens — one of her favorite spots in Winston-Salem — you can immediately recognize one of the most important facets of her life — her religion.

Al Hashimi is a devout Muslim, and she wears the traditional Islamic hijab. She is also the first student from Oman to attend Wake Forest. 

“You do not always know that a male is Muslim, but for me, wearing a hijab, I am always looked at as a Muslim woman,” al Hashimi said. “This is the first thing that identifies me.”

Being identified as a Muslim, at first sight, is something al Hashimi takes pride in. 

“It brings me joy that I am always identified as a Muslim woman by wearing the hijab,” al Hashimi said.

According to al Hashimi, to know her without knowing her faith is to not know her at all.  

“Without my faith, I would be lost,” al Hashimi said. “I truly mean that. My religion and connection to God allowed me to endure a lot of things here. Even though I am here without my family, I am not alone.”

When al Hashimi was preparing to move to the United States from Oman, she imagined America would be a wildly ego-centric and irreligious place. So, when she met other students at Wake who also claimed to love God and value their faith, she was pleasantly surprised.

“Back home, everyone talks about American culture and how different it is in terms of values, religion and everything,” al Hashimi said. “We listen to the stereotypes about the U.S. back home and in the Middle East. However, seeing the religious community here and going to church, I realized that people here have religion and do follow a certain faith. They are so attached to their religion. They love God. This is what surprised me the most. I was expecting a community without religion.”

Al Hashimi moved to the United States in the fall of 2019 with 27 other Omani students who had received scholarships to study at any university in America. However, the program required they all attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for at least their first year while studying for standardized tests and completing applications. 

While at Penn, she met with an academic adviser who told her about Wake Forest. The advisor said that no Omani student has ever attended Wake Forest. In fact, the adviser said that students rarely apply because of the extensive application process for international students. Having never feared being different, and being a courageous seeker of challenges, al Hashimi decided that she would apply.

Al Hashimi said she is often the first Omani person that people ever meet. In fact, it’s rare they even know where Oman is on a map, but she is always happy to show them.

Being the only Omani student on campus comes with its joys, but she also bares an immense responsibility to represent her country and religion.

“Of course I am proud,” al Hashimi said. “It is a mixture of emotions – of responsibility and happiness. I knew that I was coming to [Wake Forest] and bringing my identity with me. Not only [my identity as] Isra al Hashimi, but also, always, as an Omani Muslim woman.”

Nov. 18 was Oman’s National Day, a day near to Isra’s heart. In Oman, crowds of people gathered in the streets to celebrate together. Thousands of miles away, in Winston-Salem, Isra celebrated in her own way. She joined her family’s festivities via video chat, listened to Omani songs and took a stroll through Benson University Center — where the national flags of every Wake Forest student are hung — to see the Omani flag hanging proudly, knowing the only reason it is there is because she is here.