Duke University | Baldwin Scholars Program

Hanan Awel


Hanan Awel

At three years old, I strutted to the Macy’s department store. My eyes scanned the tall, exotic mannequins that posed in intricate positions. Then, without warning, I snatched the mannequins and tried, without success, to take my new pals home with me. My parents were terrified—they had raised a wild child, a rebel. But, in reality, I just wanted to add these bizarre dolls to my toy collection.

Apparently, I thought that these mannequins were rightfully mine. (Now, I know that the snatching of mannequins is illegal.)

Fast-forward and I’m now 18 years young, and you’ll find that I still go to Macy’s, but I don’t snatch the mannequins anymore. But, what remains is a fiery flame that burns within me. I like to take risks—transcend the conventional boundaries of society. I like to experiment: I try, fail, and try again. 

That child who grabbed that mannequin? Yep, that girl is me. I’m Hanan (rhymes with canon), and I get a thrill out of challenging myself.

In terms of what I want to accomplish at Duke, I have a general idea what I want to do, but there is no timetable. I have no compass, no map guiding me towards the right direction. I’m a strong believer in letting the chips fall as they may.

The path ahead is currently under construction. There are still small crevices, blemishes on the surface of my road—I need to find ways to seal these cracks shut and wipe these blemishes away. I’m hoping that I can complete the final stages of my road during my years at Duke.

I’ve always been intrigued in different cultures, languages, belief systems, and religions (I think this has to do with the unique and diverse family that I am proud to be a part of). My diverse upbringing has not only shaped who I am, but it has sparked my interest in global affairs—specifically global health and the education system in developing countries. I want to major in global health with a concentration in infectious diseases and health disparities. I am interested in the geographic and racial health disparities as well as the inequalities in life expectancy in children.

In terms of my interests, I absolutely love all things bad: including reality TV, double chocolate chip frappuccinos (this is very, very bad for my waistline), and especially Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album. ☺

My taste in music changes from hour to hour—right now, I’m loving Delilah, Gigi, and Beyoncé.

I am eternally grateful to be surrounded by intellectual leaders who will inspire me, challenge my views, and be a great support system for me in the next four years. I am so grateful to have been chosen as a Baldwin Scholar, and I know that this title will stick with me for a lifetime.

I cannot end this post without thanking those who helped me get here in the first place. I have to thank my parents a thousand times (not only because they came to my rescue and took the mannequins away from my hand when I was three, but they have tried to guide me on the right path—sometimes with success, other times with no avail). I have to thank my two younger brothers, who I adore and love because they always know how to bring humor in not-so-humorous situations. Thank you to my high school counselor, Career Center specialist, and all my high school teachers who have been the greatest mentors in my life and truly inspirational. Lastly, I have to thank my incredible friends, the great support system at Duke, and the Baldwin Scholars community. Without you all, I would not be who I am at Duke—and most importantly, I wouldn’t be writing this post. 

"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." -Thomas Jefferson

I am blessed. Egziabher yimesgen.