Al Ghurair STEM Scholars: 'Opportunity of a Lifetime'
For Helmi Hazem Abouramadan, a freshman majoring in construction engineering who was born and raised in Gaza, studying outside of Palestine has always been a big dream. However, given the unstable circumstances in Gaza, crossing the Egypt-Gaza border seemed outside the bounds of possibility.
“Unlike other scholarship recipients, I think my experience coming to AUC is particularly different,” he said. “Crossing a border in order to pursue higher education comes with many challenges when you’re Palestinian. I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to study abroad, but I knew it was difficult to study outside of Palestine due to the difficult travel circumstances. In fact, I was only able to cross the Rafah border in Gaza after it was reopened for Eid El Adha.”
Abouramadan is one of 33 Al Ghurair scholars, both undergraduate and graduate students, who joined AUC this fall as part of the first cohort of the Al Ghurair STEM Scholars Program. The program is funded by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, one of the largest privately funded philanthropic education initiatives in the world. This past spring, the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education partnered with four leading universities in the region –– one of which is AUC –– to create opportunities for underserved high-achieving Arab students to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree.
Never Give Up on Your Dreams
The Rafah border in Gaza is one of the most cumbersome crossing points for anyone, Abouramadan explained. “Gaza is under siege, and people are not allowed to travel anywhere at any time,” he stated. “There are only two ways to travel outside of Gaza: either through Jordan or Rafah. If we need to travel through Jordan, we’ll need to get a transit permit from the Jordanian authorities, then a permit from Israel. And in Rafah, the border is open only a few days every two or three months.”
Recognizing the ample opportunities AUC provides for students to learn and grow, Abouramadan explained how he was accepted to other local universities in Egypt, but chose AUC. “There was no way I could’ve turned down my acceptance to AUC in favor of other schools that did not specialize in my field of interest,” he said. “AUC has outstanding faculty members and high-quality education, in addition to providing extracurricular activities that expose students to skills outside of the classroom.”
With a diverse range of careers open for construction engineers, Abouramadan looks forward to the professional and travel opportunities his degree will offer. “I specifically chose this program because I know it can take me anywhere,” he said. “I can work in the heart of the busiest cities in the world, whether it’s in the business, management or financial sectors. Also, my curiosity about how structures are built, my love for mathematics and my desire to achieve high-academic performance all encouraged me to study this field.”
After graduating from AUC, Abouramadan hopes to enroll in graduate school. “I know that I’ll need more experience and knowledge about the latest developments in this field,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to work for a construction company where I can grow and deliver outstanding performance.”
Abouramadan’s advice to students living in Palestine who aspire to get a college education, but do not have the means is to never surrender to difficulties. “Work hard to earn an education and pursue scholarship opportunities however you can,” he said. “Despite the thousands of students that are stuck in Gaza and could not find a way to travel, I never surrendered and gave up on my dreams.”
For Menna Hassan, a graduate student majoring in nanotechnology and an Al Ghurair STEM Scholar at AUC, this scholarship will help her use science in ways that help advance humanity. “I want to prove that I am capable of expanding nanotechnology by introducing new developments in the environment,” she said. “The knowledge I gain through this program will help me develop nanoscale materials that can generate energy from renewable energy sources.”
Hassan, a firm believer in that there is plenty of room at the bottom to discover new research, has already identified new results from her research titled “Photo-Enhanced CO2 Reduction Using Metal-Decorated Nanofibers,” which will possibly be accepted for presentation at the Materials Research Society conference this fall in Boston, Massachusetts. “I am working on converting carbon dioxide and water into high-energy fuels,” she said.
Describing the Al Ghurair scholarship as an opportunity of a lifetime, Zeina Mohamed Abdelhamid, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering and another Al Ghurair STEM Scholar, thinks one of the most important advantages of this scholarship is building professional networks. “Being linked to such a great organization, which has many influences, networks and connections, could help me a great deal in my professional life,” she said.
Like Hassan, Abdelhamid also hopes to contribute to renewable energy developments. “I want to work for a corporation that introduces electric cars in Egypt,” she said. “I think we could easily implement such a project if we invested more in solar energy, which would allow these cars to operate in the country.”
Abdelhamid’s claim that what comes easily does not hold great value to a person is what keeps her aiming high. “I was offered a partial scholarship at a local university, but turned it down because I felt there were no obstacles or challenges to work for,” she declared. “However, being part of an empowering institution like AUC will always push me to put every effort into maintaining the highest level of academic achievement, as well as a full scholarship.”
Starting November 2016, the Al Ghurair STEM Scholars Program at AUC will welcome applications for the Fall 2017 cohort from high-achieving youth who need financial support to pursue their dreams of a high-quality STEM education. Applicants are expected to apply through both the foundation’s website and AUC’s scholarship admission process.