Far from Home: List of goals serve as motivation for Moustafa Elhadary


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.

Moustafa phone
Moustafa Elhadary has programmed a list of goals for the spring semester in his iPod that he will refer to as the year goes on.

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.”

Moustafa Elhadary, left, has made a list of goals for the spring semester, one of which is to make more friends. He’s already made a number of friends at the college though, including fellow international students Hansel Lobo, center, and Tyagadipta Biswal. The trio made a trip to Pittsburgh during the fall semester.


Far from Home: Moustafa Elhadary longs to return home to Dubai this winter break


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

Six cities. Five connecting flights. Thirty-five hours of travel. That’s what’s ahead for Moustafa Elhadary on Sunday.

He couldn’t be more excited.

The first-year mechanical engineering major will leave on Dec. 21 to return to Dubai after completing his first semester at Penn State Behrend. It’s his first time traveling alone, and he knows he may be in for some long, uncomfortable and boring plane rides.

But his thoughts are on being reunited with his family and friends, and that’s all that matters right now.

“Recently, I’ve been really homesick. I want to see my friends, speak my native language and eat my mom’s food,” Elhadary says. “I thought I’d be stronger than this, but I just want to go back and do the things that I would normally do.”

That’s not to suggest that he has not enjoyed his first semester at Penn State Behrend. It’s actually the contrary as Elhadary has quickly developed into a campus leader at the college. He serves as a SGA senator, chairperson for the International Student Organization, promotional coordinator for the Muslim Student Association, and he is active in club soccer.

“I can’t wait to tell my friends about my experience,” Elhadary says. “When I came here, I didn’t know what to expect. I only saw America in movies and television, but it’s been amazing. Maybe I can even encourage my friends to come here next year.”

Elhadary is excited to return home for other reasons as well. For starters, he’s never had a greater appreciation for the homemade food his mother, Maha, makes than he does now.

“I miss my mom’s food so much. The taste, ingredients, spice — all of it is so good,” he says.

His father, Mahmoud, recently purchased a new Ford Expedition, and Elhadary longs to take the new wheels for a spin.

He also knows he’s not the only one who has been busy these last four months. He’s excited to catch up with his 16-year-old sister, Safinaz, and hear about the new things in her life.

“I’m very close with her, and I’m sure she has a ton of things to tell me,” Elhadary says.

Elhadary will be in Dubai until he leaves to return to Erie on Jan. 9. He says the three-week break will just what he needs to recharge his batteries before the start of the spring semester.

And just as he now misses Dubai, he says he is sure to miss Erie while he’s gone as well.

“I have so many friends here (at Penn State Behrend), and I’m still making friends too. It’s just been awesome,” Elhadary says.

Elhadary family
Moustafa Elhadary, a first-year mechanical engineering major, is excited to return home to Dubai this winter break, so he can be reunited with his mother, Maha (right), sister Safinaz (behind) and father Mahmoud (far back).


Far from Home: The Nittany Lions football team has a new fan in Moustafa Elhadary


Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Moustafa Elhadary did not know much about Penn State when he arrived in the United States for the first time this summer.  Everything from the weather to American college coursework was uncharted territory.

But he knew about one of the school’s greatest traditions, and he knew he wanted to be part of it.

“There were a lot of things I wanted to do this year, and going to a football game was one of them,” says Elhadary, a first-year computer engineering major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “It’s been on my bucket list for quite some time. I mean, it’s Penn State.”

He got his wish on Nov. 1, when he and friends took a bus from Penn State Behrend to University Park to watch the Nittany Lions’ game against the University of Maryland.

In Dubai, Elhadary’s home since 2007, American football is all but a myth. Fùtbol, better known as soccer in the U.S., is the most popular game there, and everyone is encouraged to participate and follow the sport. For Elhadary, football was a welcomed change.

From the moment he entered Beaver Stadium, Elhadary was overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle of a football Saturday at Penn State.

“I was really impressed by the number of people there. There were just tons of people,” he says.

He was further astounded once the game began. First downs, turnovers, illegal procedures — all of it was entirely new for Elhadary.

“At first, I had no idea what was going on,” he says. “I didn’t even know if we were winning or losing, so I just followed my friends’ lead.”

As the game continued, things became clearer. With each ensuing cheer and boo, Elhadary began to feel as if he was a part of something.

This synergy was especially evident with 3:18 left in the third quarter when Christian Hackenberg threw an eight-yard touchdown to Jesse James to give Penn State a 16-7 lead. Elhadary says it was even more noticeable after Maryland took the lead with less than a minute left in the game.

“It was almost as if everyone in the stadium had the exact same thought inside their heads,” he says. “They were angry at times. Then they were really happy at other times.”

Elhadary says he was upset that Penn State lost 20-19, but he was happy he was there to see it.

His football knowledge remains a work in progress for him, but he’s committed to educating himself; he’s already planning on attending the Michigan State Blue Out game on Nov. 29.

He has also learned one of the favorite pastimes for football fans: trash talking.

“One of my friends from back home actually goes to Maryland, and I haven’t talked to him since the game,” Elhadary says. “He can talk trash to me now. That’s why I haven’t talked to him.”

Moustafa football
Moustafa Elhadary attended his first Penn State football game on November 1. Here he is shown (far right) with friends Kenton Klobusnik (far left), Matthew Wheeler and Alyssa Anderson.