The first month in school was very challenging since the education system in the United States is totally different than the Egyptian one. Being away from your family and adapting to a new way of learning was big challenge, but at UND, they usually try to help you to relax and help you to be more effective in your study. They held a monthly dinner where I can meet the other residents and enjoy dinner while playing some games at the on-campus housing office. I really enjoyed the first meeting and I had a lot of fun with the games.
October was the month where I had the opportunity to meet the most diverse and great group of my friends at UND, including friends from the U.S., Germany, Australia, Sweden, Norway, France, Ghana, India and South Korea. They make me feel that I am really with my family. As Hubert H. Humphrey said “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.
“My adventure in North Dakota continued this month when I met my roommate Dennis, who is a Native American from Mississippi. Since he is a graduate student in Chemical Engineering at the University of North Dakota, and I am studying petroleum engineering, we always have exciting technical conversations which enhance our knowledge. We do many activities together such as biking, reading, shopping, and hanging out with friends. Grand Forks, North Dakota, is one of the coldest cities in the United States, but I’ve been able to enjoy the snow for the first time.
I also had the chance to attend my first hockey game with friends when the University of North Dakota (ranked second in the United States) played against Miami University, another good sports team here. A few other international students from Germany, Mexico, Norway, India, and Australia attended with me as well as some American friends. I love meeting new people from different countries since it helps enhance my cultural knowledge and Fulbright experience.”
In Grand Forks, North Dakota you do not need to search for a place to learn snow skiing-you can just go outside your door after a snow storm and start practicing. That was my first time practicing skiing, and it was one of the best adventures in my life.
This winter break was not one of the normal ones since I spent 4 days in Las Vegas with one of my best friends. Walking around “the strip” makes you feel like you are traveling around different countries, even your home country. Being in the Luxor Hotel reminded me of Egypt. After spending a few great days in Vegas, I continued my trip with my friend to Arizona where we met other Fulbrighters and went to the Grand Canyon, one of the most amazing places ever.
“It is cold if you are standing still.” With this quote I have been inspired to face the challenge of being from a warm place like Egypt and living in one of the coldest cities in the United States. You can imagine coming from 50 oF to -50 oF. Being in Grand Forks has been one of the most wonderful experiences in my life though.
Here was the start of being the Public Relations Officer for the Society of Petroleum Engineers Chapter at University of North Dakota. Being part of this organization gives me the opportunity to help the new petroleum engineering students and helping with organizing many useful events such as lunch and learn, volunteering activities and many of other events that enhance the knowledge of the students.
“Adventures in the States never end, as I’m both learning and enjoying life. This month I had the opportunity to visit Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend the SPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference which was one of the best and more diverse conferences I have attended. I met talented people from all over the world and from many universities in the United States. We discussed a lot of technical issues, which definitely enhanced my skills and knowledge. Also life in Grand Forks, North Dakota became more wonderful when the winter ended and the spring started. Nice weather and green nature are two main things that make me happy.”
This month was full of events: finishing the first year exams, attending the Williston Basin Conference, Oil Field Training and Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. I had the opportunity to enhance my technical and personal knowledge, and meeting new people.
The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference is the largest oil and gas conference focused exclusively on the Bakken mainly the economical side not only the technical and it is hosted by North Dakota Petroleum Council, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, and the Government of Saskatchewan.
Oil Field Training is a 2 days condensed training by Nalco focusing on most of the operations done in North Dakota oil fields.
You can read my blog on the enrichment seminar here.
Another chapter of my Fulbright journey began when I started the academic training with NESET Consulting. I had the chance to participate in multiple community activities in addition to my technical training. I went to two cookout fests and a petroleum exhibition. The cookout fests were events in which oil companies provided food for the community and gave information out about the petroleum industry.
This was the last month of my academic training, and I had the chance to see the real world application of what I have been studying in the classroom. Working in the Bakken Formation gave me the chance to learn a lot about unconventional reservoirs. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to work with new people and learn from them.
This month’s adventure was nature related, and I was very happy that my family had the chance to be with me. We visited the Fargo Zoo, Thunder Road Amusement Park, and the Fargo Children’s Museum in Fargo, North Dakota. We had the opportunity to learn about many animal species and my daughters enjoyed feeding the giraffes and learning more about the other animals. After the zoo, we had a family race on a ride at Thunder Road, and finally, we visited the Children’s Museum. It was such a fun day.
This was the first time in my life that I drove close to 1,450 miles in one trip. It was an amazing road trip from Grand Forks, ND to Houston, TX. It was also the beginning of another chapter in my Fulbright experience as I started my research. I was so lucky to have the chance to work on my research with Dr. Hirasaki at Rice Universityduring the following six months.
Here I am exploring Texas and with my family, who joined me in Houston:
My time working with Dr. Hirasaki was not limited only to research. My family and I had the chance to spend a day at a sailing club with Dr. Hirasaki and his wife, Darlene. Dr. Hirasaki usually spends his free time wind surfing or skiing in the winter. We also had the chance to experience Thanksgiving Day with Dr. Hirasaki’s family. It was a great experience for me and my family as we got to know this American family and their Texas community.
Houston is a beautiful city. Even just walking down the street is amazing. I really loved walking in Houston early in the morning and then at sunset. After a very busy day or even week of studying and research it was a great relief to walk, explore all the beautiful things, and hang out with family and friends in Houston.
The Fulbright chapter in Houston organized a lunch at Rice University and invited current Fulbrighters and Fulbright alumni in Houston to attend. I had the chance to meet, engage with, and connect to fellow Fulbrighters in the Houston area.
It was a blessing that I got the chance to visit Denver, CO this month. Being from Egypt, I feel connected to old buildings. Larimer Square,Denver’s oldest block, features landmark 19th-century buildings. I cannot describe my feeling walking around these buildings and visiting the Denver Art Museum and the Rocky Mountains. I will not forget eating the largest ice cream ever with my friend Abdelrahman either.
The main event I attended this month was the Fulbright Reentry Workshop. I had the chance to meet my fellow Fulbrighters from the Middle East and North Africa and the Fulbright staff from the State Department, Fulbright commissions, and AMIDEAST. I learned a lot from the sessions about how to use my Fulbright experience to help in my country’s development and how to engage as a Fulbright alum. I also listened to other Fulbright Alumni who had worked on successful projects in their home countries. It was helpful to learn about culture shock when returning home to best prepare myself.
I cannot describe how excited I was when I defended my thesis. All my hard work in the last two years concluded on this day. It is a great feeling when professors, people from the industry, and students appreciate how good your research is. I am very happy that my research added something new to the current research in the field, and that I was able to conduct valuable work.
May 10th was my day. Graduation was the reward for all the reading, learning, tests, and uncountable research hours spent in the lab. I was very glad to be surrounded by my beloved family and friends. Even my family and friends in Egypt were able to watch the graduation ceremony live on the university website. I cannot talk about my graduation without mentioning the support of my wife Alaa, who always believed in and supported me every step of the way during my journey, and my mom Hoda, who always believed in me and remembered me in her prayers.
This is a photo of my family away from home. I had the chance to celebrate Eid al Adha with my Moroccan friends. I also had the chance to have Moroccan food and feel at home. Moroccan food is so delicious. I am so excited to visit Morocco and experience all the traditional celebrations that I have learned from my Moroccan friends who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t joined Fulbright.
Mohamed A. is a second-year Fulbright student studying Petroleum Engineering at the University of North Dakota. He is from Egypt.
Follow updates from Mohamed and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what Mohamed does this year!