Alumni Profile: Erin Hayes’ Political Science and Arabic Majors Took Her to Cairo and Oxford 

Author: Shannon Rooney


Alumna Erin Hayes ’18 lived in Cairo, Egypt for two years after graduating from Notre Dame. She wasn’t born in Cairo and hadn’t been there before, but her experiences there are a direct reflection of Hayes’ passions. 

Before graduation, Hayes applied for a program through the American University in Cairo that offers graduates from American schools internships in the city. Hayes had studied Arabic at Notre Dame and wanted to live abroad, somewhere she could put her language skills into practice. The program seemed like a perfect fit. 

“I had worked at Notre Dame’s career center as a student, so I applied for a career center position at the American University in Cairo and worked there for a year,” she explains. “I really loved Egypt and, after that experience, I still felt like I had more to learn there.” 

So Hayes started a position with St. Andrew’s Refugee Services, which primarily provided legal aid for refugees from East Africa, Syria, and Yemen, among other places. Hayes calls the experience “eye opening.” After working with a more privileged class of Egyptians at the career center, refugee work was tough. 

“It was maybe the hardest job I’ll ever have, but also the most fulfilling job,” says Hayes. 

By the time she was ready to make her next move, Hayes had fallen in love with living abroad. She decided to pursue her master’s degree in another country and has spent the last year obtaining her master’s in global governance and diplomacy at Oxford in England. 

While there, she worked for the Oxford Middle East Review, editing, helping with articles, and writing blog posts. The work fit perfectly with her interests. 

In addition to studying Arabic at Notre Dame, Hayes was a political science major. She was initially undecided about what she wanted her primary major at Notre Dame to be until her sophomore year, when she participated in the Washington, D.C. program

During this semester-long program, students live in D.C., take courses on public policy and other relevant topics, and take on internships in government and legislative offices, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and more.   

After her semester in D.C., which included an internship at the Office of African Affairs at the U.S. Trade Representative, Hayes decided to continue her studies through the political science major. 

Once settled on political science and Arabic, Hayes also pursued her interest in travel. She went to Oman with help from a summer Arabic language scholarship. And in her junior year, she traveled to Morocco, living with a host family in Rabat, and traveling to other nearby countries throughout her semester there. In addition, when writing her senior thesis, she traveled to conduct research in Northern Ireland.   

“I really feel like Notre Dame helped me with seizing opportunities to go abroad. [Before Notre Dame], I had never left the country, other than to go to Canada. And then [at Notre Dame], I saw there were study abroad experiences and grants to go abroad. That really gave me the travel bug,” says Hayes. 

Finished with her stint in Cairo and her master’s degree at Oxford, Hayes’ next move is joining the U.S. Navy. She is currently attending Officer Candidate School, a move partially inspired by an experience as an undergraduate fellow with the Notre Dame International Security Center. Wherever the Navy takes her, Hayes is ready for her next national or international adventure.  


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