SOUTH BEND -- Menna, 20, paid no attention to politics until the Egyptian revolution started on Jan. 25, 2011.
"We never imagined the president would be overthrown," said the young medical student, who lives in Sohag, a city about 240 miles from Cairo, the nation's capital.
Suddenly, Menna and everyone she knew was tracking each political development as it happened. One of her brothers left home and traveled to Cairo to be in Tahrir Square, the center of revolutionary activities.
On Feb. 11, President Hosni Mubarak -- who had ruled since 1981 -- resigned and fled.
Menna, her family and friends knew Egypt and their lives would never be the same.
Menna is among 20 young female college students from the Middle East and Asia who are spending a month this summer living at Saint Mary's College. They are attending an institute on the topic of "Educating Tomorrow's Global Women Leaders" that is hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the college's Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership.
The women spent a weekend with host families in the community and are participating in service work at the Center for the Homeless, St. Margaret's House and other local agencies. They'll leave South Bend on July 13 to spend several days in New York and Washington, D.C., then return to their home countries.
A Tribune reporter sat down for interviews with five of the young women to learn about their lives, what changes are occurring in their native countries and what their hopes are for the future. For safety reasons and at the request of the U.S. State Department, The Tribune agreed to identify each woman only by her first name and country.
Here are their stories.
To her disappointment. Menna wasn't able to vote in the recent runoff presidential election in Egypt. Her flight to the United States departed the day voting occurred.
Mohammed Morsi, a member of the once banned Muslim Brotherhood, a week ago was declared Egypt's president, making him the first civilian and
democratically elected leader of that country. Menna is content with that decision, although she had favored an earlier candidate who didn't make it to the runoff election.
Menna is a devout Muslim who wears the hijab, the head covering or veil worn by most Egyptian women.
Her father is a civil engineer who works in Saudi Arabia, her mother is a high school teacher and she has two younger brothers.
Menna lives at home and is studying to be a pediatrician or an obstetrician. She originally wanted to study engineering, but her father encouraged her to pursue a medical career instead. "I love math and physics," she said.
Although men and women share most rights in Egypt, in practice they aren't entirely equal, she said.
For example, she'd like to get a job during summer to help with her education, like many of her male peers do. But young Egyptian women aren't allowed to do such things, she said. "My dad would be mad," she said.