MISTI, a launchpad into MIT students’ careers while helping them become global citizens

MISTI’s Excellence Award Winners—Manuel Morales ’22, MEng ’23 and Marwa AlAlawi ’20, MSc 23’, PhD '26—share perspectives on connecting with and impacting the world outside of MIT.

 “My plan is to become a university professor, and potentially have my own lab. I want to continue exploring the world, but also share, teach, and inspire those around me,” shared Marwa AlAlawi, who graduated from MIT in June 2020 with a BS in mechanical engineering with a concentration in Japanese studies. She’s now a second-year PhD in mechanical engineering at MIT. “I also hope to create meaningful international collaborations within my field [of human computer interaction] and continue being an ambassador to my country and to MIT,” said Marwa, who hails from Bahrain.

Marwa AlAlawi standing beside her supervisor Ken-san in front Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, two inverted pyramids suspended over a plaza.

Marwa and her supervisor, Ken-san, in Tokyo. The MISTI Ambassador Award is awarded to students who shows exemplary attitude abroad and within the MIT community.

In her presentation at the “MISTI: Supporting Global Changemakers” event during Tech Reunion, AlAlawi expressed her enthusiasm for interdisciplinary studies. Her first MISTI experience in Japan provided an avenue to tap into her interests in virtual reality, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering and computer science . “This [summer internship in Japan] experience was extremely important to me as it demonstrated how I can work in an environment unrelated to my formal education. It also broadened my prospects for potential research labs to join as a graduate student,” she explained. Marwa developed an educational virtual reality game during her summer internship for Japan’s National Space Agency (JAXA) and GREE Japan.

Manuel Morales was the 2023 Suzanne Berger Award for Future Global Leaders recipient—an award presented to graduating seniors that has displayed global leadership. He recently graduated from MIT with a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Manuel highlighted how MISTI acted as a catalyst for his work in sustainability. Despite Covid-19 pandemic constraints, Manuel engaged in a virtual internship with a Brazilian university, Unicamp, in Campinas, Brazil, where he helped design solar PV for hospital area rooftops.


Manuel Morales holding a makeshift drum of a five gallon plastic paint bucket with a yellow plastic wrapped tightly on top of the bucket. He's holding it in one arm and hollding a drum stick in his other hand in his room with a blue curtain drawn behind him.

During his virtual internship with Unicamp, he also participated in a virtual drumming workshop to engage and understand more about the Brazilian culture.

“It was my first sustainability-focused experience. It kick-started my interest in renewables and led to future solar PV and battery storage internships. I now plan to work as an analytics developer at Group14 Engineering—a certified B Corporation in Denver—focused on building sustainability.” He discussed the importance of decarbonizing the built environment and how moving forward with the Group14 position is especially important because it’ll be tangible work to ensure buildings are more energy efficient.

A MISTI global experience not only provided Manuel and Marwa with potential career opportunities, but it also underscores the value of international collaboration and cultural awareness. Being a global citizen means doing the work that engages with and helps improve the lives of the local communities. During his MISTI experiences in Brazil—both during the virtual internship and GTL experience over IAP—Manuel worked closely with students and teachers to produce the best and most effective solutions.


Manuel Morales among the 19 high school students that worked on a Open Source Rover on the table with 4 small wheels and a rectangular screen atop of it

Manuel was able to go to Brazil in January 2023 over IAP. He managed a project alongside eight other MIT students and 35 Brazilian high school students to build a NASA JPL Open Source Rover in a 3-week timeframe in Mossoró.

The resources and opportunities provided by MISTI and MIT helped empower Marwa to thrive as a global citizen, enabling her to make significant contributions. She participated in two teaching opportunities: first, through the Global Teaching Labs (GTL) program in Jordan, and second when she launched the GTL program in her home country of Bahrain with two other MIT students. “When our proposal for the Bahrain program was approved, it brought me immense happiness and pride. I really wanted to bring part of the MIT culture I resonated the most with—the culture of making—to Bahrain, and to finally see it happen was another dream come true,” Marwa shared excitedly.

Watch Marwa's interview by Riffa Views International School


At a very young age, Marwa developed a passion for languages and art. She speaks five languages: Arabic, English, Japanese, Holi (a local language spoken in Bahrain), and Korean. “The reason why I enjoy language learning is because the language, and all the cultural nuances I learn alongside it, become part of who I am as a person,” Marwa explains. The three MISTI experiences in Japan, Jordan, and Bahrain, and language classes at MIT, provided her the opportunity to nurture her goal of transcending cultural barriers. “I was extremely happy and filled with gratitude to receive this award. I’ve always had a dream and goal to become like a bridge that tries to connect cultures, different parts of the world together and that’s been reflected in the communities I often see myself in and engage myself with—like international communities.”

A selfie of Marwa AlAlawi with four other MIT students with a sea of people in the back and part of the Japanese cylindrical shrine

Marwa in Japan during her MISTI internship in 2018 with other MIT students.

About the MISTI Excellence Award

The MISTI Ambassador Award, given annually, recognizes an MIT student or recent graduate who epitomizes the MISTI mission and has been an exemplary ambassador for MISTI both abroad and within MIT. Find past recipients for this award at

The Suzanne Berger Award for Future Global Leaders is presented annually to a graduating senior who, through coursework and a MISTI experience abroad, has demonstrated potential to become a global leader. The award was established in 2012 in recognition of Suzanne Berger, Raphael Dorman-Helen Starbuck Professor of Political Science, who founded MISTI and directed it until 2011. Browse past winners at

The reason why I enjoy language learning is because the language, and all the cultural nuances I learn alongside it, become part of who I am as a person.

Marwa AlAlawi

Marwa's illustrations and MISTI experience

Marwa AlAlawi wearing a onigiri photobooth prop holding two peace signs with both hands crouching down halfway to the right with two other MIT students who's also crouching down on the grass, one wearing a onigiri photobooth prop and another with glasses holding an onigiri rice ball in one hand and rested on his thigh, an onigiri pillow in front of Killian Court at MIT
Illustrations of Tim the Beaver eating a onigiri. In the middle, Tim is hugging a large onigiri that's 2 times his size. Third illustration is Tim the beaver on top of a onigiri rice ball with a smiley face holding a flag that says MIT Japan
Marwa GREE Tokyo Japan Farewell lunch

My time abroad helped me understand the importance of engaging communities.

Manuel Morales '22 MEng '23

Manuel's virtual internship experience

Over Zoom, a Brazillian teacher in red shirt and a drum set in the background teaching Manuel drumming
A birds eye view of Unicamp's roofs colored in purple for solar PV roofs
Manuel Morales in a cap and on one knee with 39 high school students in a brightly lit room with tiled walls and cream curtains
A open source rover on a table with 6 wheels and a lined metal body with a rectangular screen that has two smiley faces