A Fulbright Scholar’s Musical Odyssey Takes Her From Lebanon to Texas

Embarking on a journey spanning over a decade and nearly 7,000 miles, Malāk Hashem's pursuit of a career in music therapy has been nothing short of extraordinary.

A Fulbright Scholar’s Musical Odyssey Takes Her From Lebanon to Texas
Photo source: Texas Women's University

A recent profile by Texas Woman's University (TWU) highlights one woman’s journey halfway around the world to pursue her calling in music therapy. 

Embarking on a journey spanning over a decade and nearly 7,000 miles, Malāk Hashem's pursuit of a career in music therapy has been nothing short of extraordinary. From her early days learning piano to her current pursuit of a master's degree at TWU in the United States, Hashem's path has been guided by a deep passion for music and a profound interest in psychology.

Born and raised in Lebanon, Hashem's musical journey began at the age of 8 when she first started learning the piano. However, her initial progress was interrupted when her Russian piano teacher relocated. Despite this setback, Hashem rediscovered her love for music in high school and went on to study music education at Lebanon’s Université Antonine, where she graduated as class valedictorian with a bachelor's degree.

It was during this time that Hashem's sister Fatima, a speech and language pathologist, introduced her to the field of music therapy. Inspired by the opening of Lebanon's first music therapy program, Hashem found her true calling and decided to pursue it further. This led her halfway across the world to TWU, where she is currently enrolled in the music therapy program.

Hashem's journey to TWU was facilitated by the Fulbright Program, a prestigious cultural exchange initiative in the United States that enables international students to pursue their studies in America. As a Fulbright scholar, Hashem applied to four universities in the United States that offered programs in music therapy. Eventually, she chose TWU, which stands out as one of the pioneering institutions in the nation for music therapy education. TWU is among only five universities in Texas to offer this program and is recognized and approved by the American Music Therapy Association, highlighting its excellence and commitment to the field.

Hashem's interest in psychology, sparked by personal experiences and the tragic loss of one of her favorite singers to suicide (Kim Jonghyun of the K-pop group SHINee), drove her towards using music as a therapeutic tool. Drawing from her rich cultural heritage, which traces music therapy back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Greece, Hashem sees herself as part of a long tradition of using music for healing.

Raised in a household where art and literature were cherished, Hashem credits her parents for instilling in her a love for the arts. Her father's passion for music and her mother's background in English literature exposed her to a diverse range of cultural influences from a young age.

Transitioning from Lebanon to Texas, Hashem found herself immersed in a vibrant and diverse community at TWU. Despite the cultural differences, she says she has embraced Texas's country music and navigated the challenges of adjusting to life in a new country with remarkable ease, thanks to her fluency in English and her strong familial support system.

While the journey has not been without its challenges, including bouts of homesickness and the longing to hear her native Arabic language, Hashem remains steadfast in her pursuit of becoming a music therapist. With plans to return to Lebanon upon completing her studies, she hopes to contribute to the field of music therapy and collaborate with non-governmental organizations to provide much-needed support to her community.

As Hashem reflects on her journey thus far, she says she is grateful for the blessings that have guided her every step of the way. Her story serves as a testament to the transformative power of music and the resilience of the human spirit in overcoming obstacles to pursue one's passions and dreams.

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