Ilaria Youssef
Ilaria Youssef
Cairo, Egypt 2023-2024
I was born in Egypt and moved to the U.S. when I was 11 years old. Now, I am going back to Cairo, Egypt to volunteer as a data analyst with BLESSEgypt for six months! Come along with me as I give back to the community that raised me. Read More About Ilaria →

T-6 Days!

Welcome to my humble blog!

I hope you enjoy my scattered thoughts as I venture into and process this new chapter ahead of me. 

A quick recap of my life lately: my summer has been eventful and the perfect send off before Cairo. I got to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and make memories that will last me a lifetime. At the beginning of summer, I finally became a United States citizen! I also got to go to my very first county fair. I partook in the “barbenhimer” craze and tried mochi for the first time (definitely would recommend). In addition, I visited a farm and satisfied my slight obsession with cows, as well as unlocked new obsessions with many other animals!

Checking “hug a cow” off my bucket list

Meeting a beautiful rooster at the farm

I leave for Egypt in six days, and I am overflowing with emotions. I have been preparing for this move all summer so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed as the travel date approaches. But alas, I still feel like there are a million little things left to do. As I am packing, my mom and I have an ongoing bet to see whether I will run out of space or weight in luggage first. Wish me luck that we both lose and neither occurs.

I had heard that the streets in Egypt are populated with stray cats. So, in preparation, I made it a point this summer to overcome my phobia of cats. Although my fear is not fully eradicated yet, thanks to Gracie, my friend’s cat, I can now be in the same room as a feline without running away screaming.

Taking baby steps in conquering my fears as I give Gracie a snack

As excited as I am to embark on this new adventure, I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I will not get to see my loved ones for half a year! I have been trying to cherish every moment with my friends and family over the last couple of months. A little fact about me is that this is by far the longest I will have ever gone without my family. I know that a slight homesickness will be an inevitable part of my journey, but I find comfort in the fact that my days will be filled with numerous new experiences that I can share with them.

On the other hand, I can’t wait to indulge in Egyptian food, experience what it’s like to work in a non-profit office, make new friends, meet family members I haven’t seen in years, and witness Egypt’s true beauty. I am also curious to see whether I will experience any culture shocks or if the transition will be seamless.

Amidst the chaos of getting ready to move, I find myself thinking about how surreal all of this feels. Around this time last year, Nardien, a fellow Belmont alumna, introduced me to Lumos, and we were researching which country we wanted to volunteer in. And now our dreams are coming true, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have her by my side through it all.

My next blog will be from Egypt, God willing. It doesn’t seem quite real yet as I am typing this. However, please send prayers my way. 

Until next time,

Ilaria Youssef

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