A Stranger No Longer: Meet a Syrian Immigrant Who’s Made Washington His Home

Jad Makdissi at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
Jad Makdissi at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Jad Makdissi came to America from Syria with a unique story and a global perspective. Today, he’s using his time at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government as a catapult to explore Washington, D.C.—and discover his purpose.

The son of a prominent spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Jihad Makdissi, the younger Makdissi is no stranger to international diplomacy. At 20 years old, he has lived all around the world, including in Belgium, England, Lebanon, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. His family circumstances—his father fled Syria in 2012 in protest of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime—brought him to the United States in 2017. But it was his unique global experiences that led him to Mason in 2020.

“George Mason University strikes the perfect balance between affordability and academic opportunity,” he said. The biggest perk of being a Mason student, he said, “is that whether you’re on the Fairfax or Arlington campus, you are studying literally only 30 minutes away from the world's most important capital city—Washington, D.C.”

Now a rising senior majoring in government and international politics, Makdissi is beginning to make a name for himself in Washington. “In the two years I've been here, I've taken full advantage of Mason's prestigious location,” he said.

In a short time, Makdissi has served as a government relations assistant through an internship at the Washington law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. He was also a research assistant at the Arab Studies Institute in Fairfax and an executive assistant at the Middle East Institute in Washington. This summer, he will hold a Congressional internship in the office of U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (R) of North Carolina.

Makdissi has taken full advantage of on-campus opportunities as well, including selection into the competitive Global Politics Fellows program at the Schar School and freelance writing for the student-run newspaper, the Fourth Estate.

After graduating in 2023, Makdissi plans to take a gap year and pursue more internship opportunities and explore the region further before turning his sights toward law school.

He hopes to eventually work for the federal government in the Foreign Service. His desire to serve the American government and people comes from the sense of belonging he feels in the United States. He added that one of the downsides of living around the world is struggling with his identity, and he wants to work for the country that he loves and identifies with most.

“Before I moved to America, I’ve never lived in one country for more than five years—America to me is my home,” he said.