Editor’s note: Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.
By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
“Make something big,” “A in all classes,” “Freshman of the year.” Every day, Moustafa Elhadary reads these words a multitude of times.
Elhadary, a first-year computer engineering major at Penn State Behrend, has programmed a list of goals into his iPod. Placed on a radiant yellow background, the list was created by Elhadary as he sat inside a plane on his way back from his home country of Dubai for the start of the spring semester in January.
He reached many of his goals during the fall semester. He compiled a 3.88 GPA and served as a senator for the Student Government Association, chairman of the International Student Organization and promotional coordinator for the Muslim Student Association.
However, he says he hopes this is only the beginning for him. That’s where his list comes into play.
“I always put my homework assignments into my iPod, so when I look at my homework, I see these goals, and because they’re vibrant yellow, they grab my attention every time,” Elhadary says. “It reminds me that I came here for a reason. Sometimes you get caught up in the everyday things, and this list reminds me, ‘Hey Moustafa, your parents spent a lot of money for you to come here, and you need to make them proud.’”
This is one of the main reasons Elhadary has set out to make the most of his time at Penn State Behrend. While he has been active in many clubs, he has been mindful of his academics. Last semester, he had an epiphany.
“I thought, ‘What if I can stay here for four years and get two degrees instead of one?’” Elhadary recalls. “So, in the middle of the semester, I said, ‘Why not?’”
At the moment, Elhadary is taking 22 credits and considering second major options. Industrial engineering or software engineering are possibilities, but he also might consider a business major.
With so many credits this semester combined with his extracurricular activities, time has proven to be a limited resource for Elhadary. At times, he’s even struggled to find time to connect with his family.
“I’ve barely called them because of my schedule,” he says. “I’ve really been trying to, but it’s hard.”
Fortunately, thanks to his iPod, he gets frequent reminders. It’s right there in bright yellow: “Call Zazo, Many and Papy more often.”