Ohoud Saad, a junior transfer student from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, has never been deterred from the opportunity for new experiences. Her road to Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas this past August is a perfect example. “I had never heard of Minnesota. I only knew that my school had a good relationship and exchange program with St. Thomas. After doing some research on St. Thomas and speaking with students who had studied here previously, I decided I would try it. Originally I was open to going anywhere in the U.S., but I am happy I chose St. Thomas because now I love it here.”
While growing up in Giza, Egypt (with Cairo literally across the street), Saad attended American schools and built relationships with many international student friends. “At times I felt like I did not fit in with Egyptian culture; that I had been ‘Americanized.’ We watched American movies all the time. I think this prepared me for my experiences in the U.S. and St. Thomas. I did not feel much culture shock, more of a sense of belonging. I think my adapting to the culture here went very well.”
Although Saad adapted easily to American culture, she has run into a few troubles explaining her own. “We do not live in the pyramids or tents, and we do not ride camels to school. I actually have never been to the pyramids, but will as soon as I go back. Egyptians are extremely hospitable people who want to make everyone feel at home. We will help you even when we may not be capable. For example, an Egyptian will give you directions even if they are incorrect because they want to be helpful.”
Her semester experience at St. Thomas has provided Saad with many enjoyable moments. “All of the people are nice, friendly, and outgoing, which is great because I like to meet and get to know people. There are always events happening on campus and off, which is great because I like to keep active and busy; also, the campus and area is beautiful, especially with snow. Although I miss being able to hug and hold my 4-month-old niece and eat koshary (dish of pasta, rice, lentils, chickpeas and vegetables with chili sauce), I have really enjoyed my time here.”
For fun, Saad watches movies (movie night every night in Morrison Hall), goes to concerts, and visits with friends. She has taken this opportunity to know as many people as possible, cherish every moment, and do all that she can to make it an amazing experience. “I am up for anything and everything. Even skydiving.”
Saad has some advice for students interested in studying abroad. “I encourage anyone to do it, but especially Egyptians. This is what college life really is! The community and experience is much different than being a commuter student living with your parents in Egypt. Get to know about many people and befriend everyone. Keep your own culture and accept everything else. Here it is about you, being independent, taking control, and deciding what to do, which I think is amazing. Most of all, keep an open mind and do not allow things to stand in the way of you having fun with new experiences.”
After finals and a trip to New York City for New Years, Saad will return home to Egypt and the American University in Cairo. Saad already has plans to return to the United States with graduate film study at the New York Film Academy.
“You will see me as a film director, editor, and/or star.”