After high school at the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, Ismail Hamid returned home to the Maldives for a gap year. He spent it working as a journalist at the Maldives Independent, one of the few reliable news outlets in the country. It was an extremely turbulent year for the country, and Hamid covered intense, high-level news, like press conferences at the president’s office or at ministries across the country, and demonstrations and protests during which he sometimes got pepper-sprayed or tear-gassed.
He describes the experience of watching his country’s first democratically elected president, who was overthrown in a coup and then arrested on controversial terrorism charges, getting marched into the courthouse. As soon as the former president stopped to address the media, police got aggressive. “I remember that after everything happened,” Hamid says, “his shirt was torn. They literally dragged him from the ground into the courtroom, and I started thinking, If that was a former president of the country, what about your average citizen? I wanted to change things.”
With the goal of eventually working in Maldivian politics, Hamid double majored at Luther in international studies and political science and found ways to involve himself on campus that will support his future plans. He joined the International Student Association, serving for a time as its vice president and then acting president. There, he says, he learned how to moderate civil, respectful discussions and how to delegate work.
He also joined Luther’s mock trial team and became a resident assistant. These experiences allowed him to interact with new people. “My first year as an RA, I had basketball players and wrestlers on my floor—both groups of people I would not get to hang out with otherwise. I did astronomy homework with some of the wrestlers. I did a lot of cooking and hosted board games and video games and hung out with some of the basketball players too,” he says.
He also found a lot of fulfillment—and a way to help his community—through Zeta Tau Psi, a self-described multicultural service fraternity with the mission of fostering “respect, dignity, integrity, leadership, and brotherhood through cultural, intellectual, and social diversity.” Hamid held several leadership roles in the organization and feels deeply its camaraderie. “We mean it when we call ourselves a brotherhood,” he says. “We’re there to support each other in our best times and also our hardest times. We’ve cried together and laughed together. One of the best things is to show men—especially men of color—that it’s okay to be vulnerable.”
Hamid also loves the service aspect of Zeta. “You can go your four years here with your head down and not see what is happening around you,” he says. “It’s so important at a college like this and in a community like this to give back to it.”
Luther and Decorah are lucky to be able to keep Hamid for another year. In 2019–20, he’ll serve as a fellow in Luther’s Center for Global Learning. After that, he plans to use his broad leadership and service experiences to make his mark in his home country.