Study Abroad Advice from Ambassador Mohammad Almagweshi: Predeparture Help, Why IES Abroad & What He Gained from Study Abroad

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Kiah Zellner-Smith
July 29, 2016

Meet Mohammad Almagweshi, our July 2016 Ambassador of the Month! Mohammad is an international student who is currently studying abroad at the University of Rochester, where he majors in Chemical Engineering.

Living one abroad experience in the United States didn't stop him from going on yet another adventure to the Far East: Beijing, China. Since then, he's worked with the University of Rochester to help make study abroad a possibility for more Engineering students. Find out more about Mohammad’s time in China, how it changed him, and why he chose to study abroad with IES Abroad.

IES Abroad: Tell us some fun facts about yourself!

MA: I have practiced Karate and Shaolin Kung Fu for six years, and, in 2014, I switched gears to Parkour. I am loving it! Also, I'm the 10th of an 11-child family.

IES Abroad: What questions are commonly asked about your time abroad? What your response?

MA: The most common question I get is: "How easy was the process [application, visa, and other logistics] before getting to China?" It was fairly easy. The only hard part was getting myself to actually do the process because I worried about finances and if I could finish everything on time. I got overwhelmed. But the moment I made an appointment with the study abroad staff, everything was done and completed smoothly in mere days.

IES Abroad: How has an element of your identity (ex. race, gender, nationality, dietary restriction, etc.) affected or been affected by your study abroad experience?

MA: Before I arrived in Beijing, I was told that the food is so different that my stomach wouldn't handle it, and I was even given some medicine for that from the University of Rochester student health services. In addition, I'm Muslim, and so I heard that I would have to stick to seafood and vegetarian options the whole time. Also, my time there coincided with the fasting month of Ramadan, and so everything seemed to point to a dire food crisis. I prepared myself mentally and sadly let go of the dream of trying the authentic diverse Chinese cuisines.

To my surprise, the program director in Beijing, Zhao Laoshi, is Chinese and Muslim herself. Food was the best part of my experience and my way to meet people. I tried the Peking duck at one of the many Muslim restaurants and ended up invited for lunch by a Muslim family for Eid Al-Fitr celebration. Literally, every day I had a different lunch and never needed that medicine. In short, the food was a good culture shock to me.

IES Abroad: Why IES Abroad?

MA: I wanted to experience Chinese culture and learn the language directly from its home. I learned about the Beijing Summer Language Intensive Program, and I was glad to know that it was intensive but also provided plenty of cultural experiences through various field trips to museums and historical landmarks within Beijing City and beyond. Once I learned about that, I knew I was about to go on a great adventure.

IES Abroad: How did you meet locals abroad?

MA: Through three ways: Food, IES Abroad friends, and homework! There are many restaurants that are run by local families and once you become a regular, you cannot avoid talking with people. My friends in the program loved going on trips and visiting new places, and in a group, talking with the people around us was inevitable. Finally, one homework assignment was to interview a local, and that was a cute way to do it, too!

IES Abroad: What have you gained from being an IES Abroad Ambassador?

MA: Admiration from people when listening to my stories, aspiration when interacting with people who want to explore the world and learn, and appreciation, when I reflect on all the privilege that got me to where I am. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for everything!

IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?

MA: Worry less, and venture out! You will experience the best type of learning: a memorable one that is gained through fun trips and adventures.

Want to learn more about Mohammed? Read about Mohammad’s experiences abroad on the University of Rochester’s Engineering & Applied Sciences page and the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering page.

For more information about our Ambassador program, click here.

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Kiah Zellner-Smith

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