“The world is never that far away”

Meet twins Farah and Ariana Tolu-Honary’24 and their younger sister, Mina’26. Though they run in different circles on campus and studied abroad in three different places to improve their language skills in three different languages, the sisters all share the goal of becoming teachers or professors. 

The Tolu-Honary sisters


Farah Tolu-Honary

Class of 2024

  • Majors: International relations and French
  • Studied abroad in Morocco (fall ’22) and Tunisia (spring ’23), independent summer research in Senegal (summer ’23)
  • Applying to graduate schools and Fulbright in France
  • Presented “Judicial Responses to Weaponized Citizenship in Zimbabwe” at the 27th World Congress of Political Science, hosted by the International Political Science Association in Argentina

Ariana Tolu-Honary

Class of 2024

Mina Tolu-Honary

Mina Tolu-Honary

Class of 2026

  • Majors: Education and youth studies and Spanish
  • Global Experience Seminar in Puerto Rico (summer ’23) and Northern Ireland (summer ’24)
  • Planning to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina (fall ’24) and Erfurt, Germany (spring ’25)
  • Track and field and cross country athlete

What they have to say

You both have studied abroad, Farah and Ariana. What was that like?

Farah: Studying abroad was the best experience of my life. Getting involved in a new culture and integrating myself into a new environment was so much fun for me that I keep looking for more opportunities to go abroad. I just applied to do a Fulbright. I hope to continue my studies in French and international relations to continue the international trajectory I started here at Beloit.

Ariana lounging in the sand in the United Arab Emirates. Ariana lounging in the sand in the United Arab Emirates.Ariana: I chose the UAE because we’re Iranian and it was the closest I could get to Iran. That started some language interests in me — or continued them, since we all speak a little Farsi at home. It inspired me to take a Persian language class this summer at UW-Madison. I also just applied for the Fulbright in Tajikistan, where they also speak Persian. I can use my study-abroad experiences in the UAE and my Persian language experiences in Tajikistan.

Mina: Just seeing the two of them going abroad last year has definitely made me want to go. They’d send so many pictures, and getting them I’d say, “Wow, I really want to go somewhere too.”

Farah: I’m also applying to a few Ph.D. programs here in the U.S.; they’re so competitive. I’m trying to keep a lot of options open. I eventually want to be a professor of comparative politics, so I know the end goal, but I’m trying to figure out exactly what path to get there.

Ariana: I still need to do student teaching, so if I get the Fulbright in Tajikistan, I’ll need to get my certification when I get back to Beloit. Even though I’d be teaching English in Tajikistan full-time for an entire year, it doesn’t count as a teaching certification experience [here]. I’d want to start off doing some sort of secondary education. Eventually, I’d like to become a professor as well, focusing on Middle Eastern history. That’s my long-term goal.

Farah: Our mom is a fourth-generation teacher, so we’d be the fifth generation. On our dad’s side, our aunt worked in villages in Iran teaching first grade, so we have a family tradition in education. I remember growing up, I was like, “I don’t want to be a professor or a teacher because that’s what everyone in my family is,” but obviously, that has changed!

Mina: I felt that way about coming to Beloit as well. Our dad works here, and Farah and Ariana are here. I wanted to make my own path. But getting to see them on campus and having those connections has been so cool.

Farah: Our whole life, we’ve been here. Our dad [Server Administrator Al Tolu-Honary] been here close to 30 years, so there was never a “getting to know Beloit” period — we were born knowing about it. I remember when we were really little, we would come up to campus sometimes with our dad. I think we went to Beloiter Days or Homecoming, and I remember being in Aldrich Field with hot dogs and brats and cotton candy. Our whole life, Beloit [College] was always part of it. Our mom was our German teacher in high school, and then we’d visit my dad, and I was like, “Maybe I need to go somewhere new.” But it just felt like home. There are so many opportunities here, especially with study abroad and the international mindset of the college.

Do you feel the same way, Mina and Ariana?

Ariana: I couldn’t say it better! We all have different paths, but we’ve had a similar experience and feelings about the college. It’s very homey, but we’ve all gone our different ways. Farah and I picked different places to study abroad. We’re all studying different languages. Even though we’re from the same family, from the same place, we’re still doing different things with our studies, our travels. [Beloit] caters to all of our personalities really well.

Farah: I feel like we could all find enough space from each other when we needed it. If we felt like we wanted to hang out, that was very available and convenient too.

What’s it like living an hour from your hometown?

Mina: It’s easy to go back home [to Freeport, Illinois] and stay connected to our hometown, but also get away from it for a while. We’d grown up in the same house our entire lives.

Farah: Anytime my dad comes to campus — he usually works from home — I’ll be like, “Dad, I forgot this pair of shoes, can you bring them up for me?” He’ll also bring snacks and home-cooked meals — a full grocery bag sometimes. That’s one of our favorite benefits. Then Ariana will [text him], “Can you bring this whole list of things?” And Mina. And we’ll try to find times throughout the day to go to my dad’s office to pick it up, and sometimes he’ll be on campus when we’re in class, so then one of the other sisters has to pick up the items, and we’ll have to try to figure out when we can see each other to dole out the items.

Mina: Sometimes we get to it right away, and other times it’s like, “Your stuff has been in my room for two weeks — if you don’t come get it, I’ll eat it.”

Ariana: One thing I was concerned about with Beloit was how close it is to home and how small it was, so I was worried there wouldn’t be a lot of opportunities to explore my interests. The option to go to the UAE was not advertised much, so I didn’t know it was an option until I reached out to the GEO office. My language experience in Madison was partially funded by the Common Grant through Beloit. Even if Beloit doesn’t offer something, it does make it possible for you to go somewhere else to get what you’re looking for.

Mina: Beloit College is the same size as our high school, so [I worried] it was going to feel like that, but that’s one of the things I like about it. You get to know your professors and when you walk down the street on campus, you see people you know. It’s easier to make those connections at a small school like Beloit.

Farah's view of a beautiful blue street in Tunesia. Farah's view of a beautiful blue street in Tunesia.Farah: I second that. I worried there were not going to be as many resources available to me as there would be at a big school. Beloit has a way of helping you find a niche. Once you find close [relationships with] faculty and staff, they’re willing to help find the experiences you’re looking for. Sometimes you have to find a more creative route in getting there, but there’s a way, and you have a better story to tell. I got a Weissberg scholarship this summer to do research in Senegal. The Senegal [semester] program got canceled and I was devastated, but Beloit allowed me to study [for a semester in] Tunisia and made it possible [through the scholarship] to fulfill my dreams of going to Senegal. I felt so appreciative that they were willing to help me through that. When I have an idea or project in mind, I know who to go to on campus to guide me towards my goal.

Ariana: Farah and I are applying to the Fulbright, and Julianne Angeli in the GEO office is the most helpful person in the world. If we needed any help, she’d email us right away and take personal time to help us with these applications. It shows this isn’t just a job for her or for any of the staff that helped us. They really want to see us succeed, and they will go to whatever length it takes to help us.

Mina: Julianne was on the trip I took for the Global Experience Seminar in Puerto Rico this summer, and she’s also been helping me with my study-abroad plans. We’re working with some of the same people, but in different ways!

Mina and Ariana, even as education majors, you probably haven’t had much overlap together, right?

Mina: Ariana and I are actually taking our first and only class together this semester (EDYS 300), which has been a fun experience to share.

Farah: I think Ariana and I had one class together during our whole time here, and that was a summer class before our freshman year — a Zoom class called The Human Animal. After that, we never had any classes that crossed over.

Ariana: Farah and I have both taken a couple of classes with [Associate Professor of History] Daniel Brückenhaus. Mina and I have taken education classes with [Professor of Education and Youth Studies] Jingjing Lou.

Who have been your favorite professors?

Ariana: [Visiting Assistant Professor of History] Sabauon Nasseri in the history department told me about the Persian class I took over the summer, and I’ve done a lot of my projects in his classes. He let me take one of his 200-level classes and do my own capstone research in it. I used my Persian language skills, and he helped me with that. I’m also working on a project with him this semester that’s different from everybody else [in the class]. It’s carving my path with where I want to go with Tajikistan. It’s been crazy having someone who is also Persian as my professor — I’ve never had that before, that cultural connection.

Farah: My IR advisor is [Manger Professor of International Relations] Beth Dougherty, and she’s one of those people who takes me out to lunch in the summer. She’s an email away and always available to meet with me. She’s guided me through so many applications, figuring out which grad schools to apply to, how to apply to them, identifying which program is the best fit for me. She wants you to succeed and is so dedicated to what she does. My French advisor, [Assistant Professor of French] Joseph Derosier, has been supportive of my Fulbright application to France and my Francophone research in Senegal. They have both allowed me to explore my interests and research project ideas. They created spaces for me to be creative.

Mina in Puerto Rico during her Global Experience Seminar last summer. Mina in Puerto Rico during her Global Experience Seminar last summer.Mina: [Associate Professor of Spanish] Amy Tibbits has been wonderful, and in education, Jingjing Lou has been supportive ever since I got here. I was a TA for [Visiting Assistant Professor of Education] Jennifer Hurst last spring, which is an opportunity that not a lot of first-years get, so I was super grateful. [Assistant Professor of Dance] Gina T’ai in theatre and dance was my AMP (Advanced Mentoring Program) advisor last year, so I took her myofascial release and injury prevention class. I also took her ballet class. She’s such a cool professor. It’s been nice to explore that, since I was an athlete in high school and now at Beloit. Incorporating more movement into my daily routine has been a unique experience. I took ballet in middle school just for fun, so coming back to it in college has been nostalgic, tapping into a former passion. That’s something I didn’t expect in college, but it’s been really fun.

Farah: Because Beloit has such an international orientation, there are ways that you feel like you’re home, but you’re not [staying] in your same community and not branching out. There’s so many opportunities to explore the world here. When I first came, I knew I wanted to study international relations and that I had to take a language. I started with French and I didn’t expect to take more than the four required classes, but there was a French professor here at the time who created projects about Francophone countries — introducing the idea that you can study French not just in France, and that’s how I got interested in North Africa and wanted to study there. It was so cool to have overlap between the majors. Yes, I’m close to home, but I’m not at the same time. The world is never that far away. Beloit fosters relationships with people and organizations in the community too, so you get the best of both worlds.

Ariana: I’ve had the opportunity to go to a lot of club events, like Afro-Caribbean Society and Asian Pacific Student Association — they have Holi events every year. I went to India last year when I was abroad, so I can take the experiences I went to here and translate them into my travels. Farah and I have friends here from South Asia who invited us to go home with them over winter break. Through those connections, we’re able to see more of the world. The Beloit community is really strong, and no matter where you are in the world, if you see someone from Beloit, you already have a connection there. Maha Sabbagh’21 is from Dubai, so when I was in Dubai, I met up with her a couple of times. That was really cool; I’ve seen her at home in Beloit and now in my study-abroad host country. It goes to show that no matter where you are, if you have that Beloit connection, you already have a friend.

March 06, 2024

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