When Passion Meets Assertion: Scholarship Student Reflects on Road to AUC
During the Fall 2018 First-Year Experience (FYE), AUC President Francis Ricciardone’s welcome note to the new students was, “You didn’t come here to end your education; you came here to accelerate it.”
This statement is what Amr Mohamed Atia has glued on his desk and refers to every day.
“This is AUC for me," said Atia.
Originally from Al Qalubeya governorate, Atia is a mechanical engineering freshman who just joined AUC this fall after a long journey of trials, errors, disappointments and big hopes. He is the first recipient of the Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait Public School Scholarship.
Back home, in Qualubeya's Shubra el Kheima, Atia lives with his mother and younger brother. He earned the national high school certificate (thanawiya amma, mathematics section) from Al Tawfikia government school with a cumulative score of 97 percent.
“I asked myself at some point, 'What do you want from education? What are your ambitions?," Atia reflected. “The highest ambition for any member of my family or community is joining a good public university such as Cairo University, but I have always aimed higher.”
During his first year of high school, Atia started to dream big, set his goals and worked hard - in complete silence - to achieve them. “I didn’t disclose my plans to a single person, not even my mother, to avoid any disappointments, which was not an easy thing for me," he recalled. "Thinking about joining AUC was neither normal in my community nor at my school.”
He started from square one in almost everything. He worked on developing his English language and applied for a simulator of the IELTS test in order to know where he stands, since his studies have always conducted been in Arabic.
“The IELTS was actually expensive for us, so I had to work during the summer vacation to save money for it,” he said. “Getting the required score encouraged me to study even harder to achieve the highest grade possible in thanawiya amma and come one step closer to fulfilling my dream.”
After knowing what exactly he wanted, Atia started to follow a plan in order to reach it. He went to the Ministry of Education with his IELTS and thanawiya amma scores, along with more than 80 other candidates, who would then be filtered to only 20. The ministry collects candidate applications from all governorates and sends them to AUC to go through the normal procedures. Some documents, such as those reflecting the financial status, are also required to help determine the final filtration.
After being chosen among the 20 candidates in the first screening, Atia had to sit for a panel interview right before the First-Year Experience orientation (FYE) for the final selection. His interview lasted for almost an hour and a half, where he shared everything about himself, his family, dreams, financial status, what he wants to achieve and why he wants to join AUC. “At that point, I had already been accepted in Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering,” Atia said. “I actually went there and tried to convince myself that this is the best thing one could get, given my overall circumstances, but I wasn’t still convinced and wasn’t satisfied.”
After one or two days, Atia received a call from AUC's Office of Financial Affairs and Scholarships that he was accepted to receive the Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait Public School Scholarship, whereby he will be offered full tuition fees and residence inside the University dorms. “Words can’t describe my happiness at that moment," said Atia. "I was actually about to lose hope, as I did everything possible to reach this dream, so this scholarship was a chance for me to become who I want to be.”
On his first day at AUC, Atia had very mixed feelings of pride, surprise and overjoy during the First-Year Experience, as he’d been looking forward to this day for the past three years. “I live in a modest area with very modest people, and I’ve gone to governmental schools, so the AUC community looked really different to me. I have never thought I’d get the chance to be a part of this community one day,” Atia explained
As a freshman at AUC, Atia is now registered in the English 99 class, but he’s working hard to pass the Eng 100 exemption exam and jump to Rhet 101. He actually succeeded in passing the first writing test and ranked first in his class.
Atia has already built strong friendships from his English class and is enjoying his studies, trying to make the best out of his experience. He also hopes to pursue his master’s and PhD someday.
“I really love what I am studying and am passionate about it," he noted. “AUC represents an opportunity for me. It's bringing me one step closer to realizing my dreams. It’s not my goal anymore, but a tool for reaching where I want to be. I am not going to waste any chance to learn.”
Atia sometimes questions the difference between AUC and other public universities. “It’s the opportunities available: research, funding small projects through things like the AUC Venture Lab, international exposure and the services that AUC provides for its students and the community," he said. "This is why I wanted to be here."
As the first recipient of the scholarship at AUC, Atia was invited to spend a day at Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait, where he was introduced to the bank’s operations. He was happy to know that he could intern at the bank and may even be offered a full-time job after graduation. “I don’t want to sound cliché or too formal, but I’ll actually work so hard to prove to my donor that I deserve their support," he affirmed. “I know and appreciate how big their gift is. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to be here.”
Looking back on his life so far, Atia noted how he has always aimed for the best despite the unpaved road and his financial setbacks. However, he never took no for an answer. “I am happy and proud of what I’ve achieved by coming here, and I have so much passion" for learning at AUC, he said.