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Taking flight

By Center for International Programs

Growing up in tiny Al Mahallah, 587 miles southwest of the capital city of Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Asiri never imagined he’d study in a different country. Like many young boys, his prized possession was his bicycle. “When it was broken down, I used to fix it myself, without any help,” Mohammed says. He believes this small beginning was the start of his international journey. 

Studying Mechanical Engineering was a logical step for Mohammed, since he showed an early aptitude for it. Many years after repairing his childhood bicycle, he became an instructor of Mechanical Engineering in his country. However, he knew he wanted to expand his knowledge and practice. Hearing from a friend about UD’s programs in Clean and Renewable Energy from a friend, Mohammed applied and was chosen for sponsorship to complete a graduate degree in the U.S. 

“I had never considered studying overseas,” he says, “being away from my family and home causes great homesickness, especially with the pandemic.” Living away from his support structures, he says he was anxious, and feared becoming disconnected. However, a familiar face at UD was a welcome sight: Azzam Alhussain, one of his previous instructors from Saudi, was about to graduate from UD, with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering. ‘I wish we could have had classes together,” Mohammed says, but participating together in the Engineering program at UD, which yearly attracts almost 300 international students, was an inspiring way to begin his studies. 

Living in a different country has its challenges, says Mohammed. Certainly the language was a learning opportunity, especially, he says, the pronunciation of American English. His time in the Intensive English Program at UD was instrumental in getting him ready for his studies. In the IEP, Mohammed impressed Nick Taggart, Director of the IEP, from the beginning: “He was quite energetic, eager and happy to participate and be in our program, and filled with promise and determination to follow his dream and achieve his goals,” Taggart recalls. Mohammed’s  focus and commitment to his studies was evident as he progressed through the program and moved into his engineering courses. Taggart was so impressed with Mohammed that he recently recruited him for a student worker position supporting students in the Intensive English Program. It made sense, says Taggart, “Mohammed is an exemplary student and an outstanding example of Flyer Spirit!”

Mohammed has come a long way to continue developing his knowledge about his field, as he experiences ways of teaching and learning that are unique to UD. Upon his return he knows he’ll be back in the classroom, this time as an instructor: “Studying overseas is a very good chance to enhance my English language, and experience different ways of teaching...sooner or later I will go back home and give classes.” He knows his experiences at UD will prepare him to excel wherever his path leads next. 

What would he say to that little boy back in Al Mahallah, fixing his bike? “Study overseas! It will help you develop personally, learn to manage your finances, and develop relationships with new people.” Life can be full of challenges, Mohammed says, but “these challenges make us stronger.” We’re glad he chose to expand his horizons with us here at UD!