Like many college students, Rahaf Abu-Mahfouz was unsure of what to immerse herself in at college. She declared several majors before landing on something she fell in love with. Abu-Mahfouz has always enjoyed observing people and the way the world works, and now majors in Sociology at the Pennsylvania State University’s Harrisburg Campus with an expected graduation date of spring 2022. She feels that sociology is expanding her knowledge in many different areas, including how to be a better writer by utilizing multiple perspectives.
Abu-Mahfouz believes that storytelling presents the opportunity of acknowledgment to those who are not seen and heard. Connecting with the people she writes about is important to her, she said, because when someone truly understands you, it can have a positive impact on both parties.
As a Palestinian woman, Abu-Mahfouz has faced racism her entire life. This has increased her desire to listen to people and use her writing skills to tell their stories.
“I was hurt growing up because I always felt like I was unliked. Experiencing racism as a child made me want to be invisible,” she said. “If I were seen, I would be told mean things or laughed at. I cannot name a specific incident where I called out racism, there are too many. However, I am not scared to call it out now.”
Abu-Mahfouz is currently an intern for Sound Community Solutions, a non-profit that provides human service resources to members of the community in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, one being criminal reentry programs. One of her projects is creating and writing a newsletter that focuses on criminal justice and racial disparities that exist within the prison system.
In combatting racism, Abu-Mahfouz believes that communication is the key. She takes any opportunity to discuss racism with people who may have different viewpoints from her own because, she asks, “How can you observe what is going on in the world and not talk about it?”
“I love the topic of this year’s [Writing Wrongs] program. Not because racism is a great thing, but because stories of racism should be shouted from rooftops. There is too much injustice and hate. Silence is a coward. Conversation is bravery.”
In her leisure time, Abu-Mahfouz enjoys participating in what constitutes as self-care for her. Running, baking, reading, and cooking are some of the things she does to relax and take care of herself.
If she could have one wish to come true for herself, it would be for inner peace.
If she were granted one wish to come true for the world, it would be for people to listen. Abu-Mahfouz explained that people often do not actually listen when it comes to conversations. Instead, they are thinking of what to say next. If people stopped and actually listened, there could be mutual understandings about everything and everyone.
Abu-Mahfouz lists moving out of her hometown as the number one thing on her bucket list.