Mohamed Hegazi, Civil Engineering Alum
Key Accounts Supervisor at Philip Morris International, Ukraine, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Louisiana State University, USA, in Fall 2013
Studying abroad shaped the person that I am today, both professionally and personally. It gave me the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. [Previously,] I did not have much travel experience. Since graduation, I’ve worked in three different countries and now travel regularly to at least 10 countries a year. I cannot narrow down the most significant gain from the experience because there are too many.
Studying abroad didn't help me find a job, but it helped me get a job. I spoke about the experiences I had abroad during the internship challenge at AUS, and I was one of six students offered an internship out of 500. The internship was at a multinational company, so studying abroad was a plus. It proved that I was able to interact with a diverse population and it made me stand out. I completed the internship one month before I graduated from AUS, and I was offered a full-time job and still work for the same company today. I thank IXO from the bottom of my heart for the opportunities I’ve had, my time [abroad] and the impact it has made on my life.
Solmaz Karimi, Biology Alum
Doctoral Student at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, USA (Doctor of Pharmacy), and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at University of Vermont, USA, in Spring 2014
During my third year of college, I was accepted to study abroad for a semester at the University of Vermont. I never envisioned that this short semester abroad would shape the rest of my life. I used my semester abroad to network and form meaningful bonds with other students as well as faculty. One faculty member at UVM played a pivotal role in my decision to move to the USA to continue my graduate studies. He wrote one of my recommendation letters for UVM and was also present during my Skype interview. After graduating from AUS in Spring 2015, I moved to Burlington, Vermont, to complete my Master of Science in Pharmacology. I was then offered a job as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, which also covered my tuition and fees. Upon learning more about the pharmaceutical fields, I decided to apply to pharmacy schools. I got accepted into my dream school, the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, which is ranked number nine in the USA. I graduated with a Master of Science in Pharmacology in the spring of 2017 and moved to Florida to pursue my Doctor of Pharmacy degree. I’m currently a third-year pharmacy student, and I’ve been working at the Center for Quality Medication Management. I worked hard to get to where I am today, but my study abroad semester molded the foundation upon which I built the rest of my career. I’m so grateful for the doors it opened for me and for the great friendships that I made along the way.
It’s very difficult to narrow down the significance of study abroad to just one benefit, but I would say networking and forming life-long friendships are probably at the top of my list. If it weren’t for my study abroad experience, I may have never gained the courage to move to another country and live, study and work by myself. I’ve improved upon my confidence, cultural competence and social intelligence through my study abroad experience. I’ve been granted scholarships, jobs and leadership opportunities that may have never happened if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith my third year in college. For this and many more reasons, I thank IXO and Dr. Linda Angell. The corner office with all the flags and good coffee in the Main Building was and will forever be my home away from home.
Vishnu Narayanan, Finance Alum
Graduate Student at Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney, Australia (Juris Doctor Degree), and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, in Fall 2017
Studying abroad for a semester at Maastricht University was definitely one of the most enriching experiences I've ever had. I can always go on about the number of things I got to learn and the different perspectives it gave me on various things. However, what I cherish the most from my study abroad experience, and what I think will help me in graduate school, is the self-belief I gained with respect to taking care of myself. Growing up as an only child, especially in a city such as Dubai, I always doubted my capabilities to live the independent life. During my semester abroad, I was able to gain the skills and capabilities necessary for taking care of myself. These skills are what I believe have made the aspect of attending graduate school in a place I've never been to, such as Australia, less daunting.
My study abroad experience led me to meeting students from across the world, and a handful of the friends I made happened to be from Australia. Before meeting them, I was quite unaware of what life was like down there, but thereafter, they changed my perspective on what it's like in Australia. It was through them that I got to know how inclusive, diverse and exciting life is in Australia, and I do believe this had a huge impact on my decision to choose it as my destination for graduate school.
Working at IXO was a great experience and one that I'll always be grateful for. I joined the office so that I could urge others to have the same experience I did. But working in this office let me do so much more than just that. It gave me a chance to meet and interact with people from different parts of the world, every semester. The people I met through working in this office helped me understand things from a different perspective. Moreover, I was able to build wonderful relationships with my colleagues, to the extent that this office had become my home away from home. Hence, after working at IXO, I was able to gain great insight into what working at a professional environment may be like and the importance of keeping good relations with your colleagues.
Sydney Law School, where I am pursuing my Juris Doctor, is considered to be one of the most prestigious law schools not just in Australia, but across the world. The degree program is meant to last three years, and I look forward to learning, entering the field of law and hopefully working full-time in Australia by the end of it. I will also be keeping an eye on international opportunities that would allow me to travel around the world.
Leontia D’Silva, Management Information Systems Alum
Digital Executive of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Wasl Group, UAE, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Montana State University, USA, in Spring 2017
Personally, [my study abroad] experience broadened my horizons. It taught me how to be independent and how to take responsibility. It taught me how to deal with a lot of internal emotions that I’d never experienced before. I'd always lived with my parents before that, so the exchange program was an overall great learning experience for me. There are a lot of things you can gain from a study abroad experience, but I think the most significant gain would be just getting to know yourself better. In [the UAE], you're in your comfort zone, and you’re doing everything according to that. When you go abroad to study, everything is different and you adapt yourself to all of these new situations. You get to learn a lot about yourself while handling all of these new situations.
Since studying abroad, I am more confident to travel by myself; I think I can confidently take up going anywhere and just live on my own. Since I could go to Montana, I could probably go anywhere.
I mentioned that I did an exchange program on my résumé and in my cover letter every time I applied for jobs. I am not sure exactly how much it has helped me get interviews or a job, but I’ve always mentioned it in my interviews.
I think the biggest skill I developed while I was abroad was networking, because I obviously had no friends [in Montana]. I didn't know anyone so I had to talk to people, get to know them, and figure out who I wanted to hang out with. The courses I took abroad also helped me develop myself more. I took a World Cultures course there, and that taught me a lot about world history and how that has affected our modern lives. I think that was one of the things that has really helped me after I graduated.
Shahid Shamshu, Electrical Engineering Alum
Graduate Student at Texas A&M University, USA, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at North Carolina State University, USA, in Fall 2012
Having grown up in the Middle East and not really travelled much earlier, my study abroad experience left a huge impact on my personal life. It was a major step outside my comfort zone and exposed me to people from different cultures. This really helped me explore my independence, develop a broader mindset and increase my confidence. Additionally, having a study abroad experience on my LinkedIn profile/résumé has always been a great conversation starter in a lot of professional settings such as interviews or networking events. People are always interested in learning more about your study abroad experience. Lastly, it's definitely a pro to have on your résumé when applying for graduate school. I do believe it gave my graduate school application a push towards the right direction, and it definitely took up a good chunk of my statement of purpose in the application.
I think the biggest and most significant gain [from my study abroad] would be the exposure to different people and cultures, which in turn makes a person more open-minded. Additionally, it is a huge step out of one's comfort zone, which is very essential for the growth of a person on all fronts.
I think some of the skills that my employer values that I’ve gained from my study abroad experience would be the ability to work well in a team setting with different people from different backgrounds.
Islam al-Qaisi, Chemical Engineering Alum
Commercial Manager at Kpler, UAE, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Montana State University, USA, in Fall 2013
Emotional intelligence has been one of the most important skills that I acquired during my study abroad. Understanding someone else's point of view, especially coming from a different culture, is a useful skill to have in the real world. I have traveled and lived abroad for professional work in South Africa. My time there was an opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and get to know the people. South Africa is known for the diverse ethnic backgrounds of its people, and I was able to be friends with everyone.
I've traveled to Turkey, India, France and many other countries for business. My job requires me to meet government officials, CEOs and senior managers. Communicating with these people requires good interpersonal skills, and I was blessed to acquire those skills from my study abroad experience, as I can comfortably speak with others from different countries and whatever their seniority level.
Working at IXO benefited me in several ways, both professionally and personally. From the professional side, I gained better communication and interpersonal skills, I learned to work smart instead of work hard, and I developed time management, risk management and good planning skills. As for the personal aspect, life became more positive. Public speaking became easier. And I became more family-oriented since I felt the difference when I was living independently abroad.
I always brag about being a Peer Advisor at IXO. I always say that this is where teamwork happens. It was an unforgettable experience; it was always fun working at IXO. I worked with an amazing team, and we still go out together for reunions. I remember the good reviews I got from the study abroad students at the end of the semester, which still helps me even now. It gives me the motivation to keep getting better.
Mariam el-Ashwal, Architecture Alum
Former IXO Publicity Specialist
Studied at Louisiana State University, USA, in Fall 2018
I am exploring employment and graduate opportunities in the USA and Canada, whichever comes first. If it weren’t for my exchange experience, I would not be exploring opportunities abroad. I don’t think I would have the courage. [Study abroad] opened my eyes to limitless opportunities, and I feel like I can do anything. I have so much more confidence now. One of the most significant gains from a study abroad experience is the confidence one can develop.
Professionally, studying abroad taught me how to organize my time. I made sure I had enough time to have fun and to study. My study abroad experience is on my résumé, and it has been a great conversation starter at past interviews. Interviews become easier because it is easy to talk about something you are passionate about. Studying abroad really shows how I am open to trying new things.
Ibrahim Salloum, Civil Engineering Alum
Planning Engineer at Arabtec Construction, UAE, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Washington State University, USA, in Spring 2014
When I applied for a semester abroad at Washington State University, I had no idea it would be one of the best experiences of my life. Studying abroad made major positive changes to my personality. It taught me how to be self-dependent, careful and motivated. It might sound difficult travelling to a new country on your own and not knowing what to expect, but that was actually the best part of it. When you’re studying abroad, you get to know yourself better. You make new friends that come from a different background and have nothing in common with you. You learn how to communicate and tolerate. You learn about others’ cultures, the way they think, and their lifestyle. This knowledge and experience tailors your personality and makes you different from others, especially when applying for jobs. My job interviewers were always interested in discussing my semester abroad. My study abroad experience made me stand out by identifying me as a person who is willing to take a step further in developing himself.
Other than standing out in job interviews, I would say the biggest gain from my experience abroad was making lifetime friends. During my semester abroad, I met several other study abroad students. We spent an amazing time discovering the USA together and then visiting each other in our home countries.
Studying abroad is an experience with many gains, most of which will be clear after completing your semester abroad. If you are considering doing it, I would highly recommend going for two semesters instead of one, as this is my only regret regarding my study abroad experience. Thank you to IXO for giving me the chance to become the person I am today.
Kamil Khan, Finance and Economics Alum
Global Partners Associate at Guardian Wealth Management, UAE, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, in Spring 2018
It’s been over a year since I’ve returned from my semester abroad and I’m still talking about it to every new person I meet. It’s been a phenomenal experience and will always be a highlight in my life.
In terms of professional life, it’s one of the things that sets me apart from the competition. Having studied abroad always brings about conversation in interviews and it’s great fun to talk about my experience abroad. The ability to see things from a different perspective has been immensely valuable. At my current workplace, I interact with people of various nationalities who communicate in different ways. Some are direct and upfront, while some talk in circles. Having met varied people abroad, I’ve garnered an understanding of how to interact differently with different people to get a point across. It’s almost like sales, where I change my pitch depending on the person I speak to, while ensuring the outcome remains the same.
I was fortunate enough to travel to 11 countries across Europe during my semester abroad. That has given me a great idea of the type of city that I would like to settle in or pursue a master’s degree in. Metropolises like Paris are active and buzzing but necessitate a hustling lifestyle with commute via metro being the norm, whereas towns like Maastricht have a laid-back lifestyle where a work-life balance is considered essential and everyone commutes on a bicycle.
I believe that everyone who is fortunate enough to experience a study abroad semester comes back with a lot of perspective.
Hams al-Walid, Chemical Engineering Alum
Procurement Excellence Assistant at NAMETRUB, Unilever, UAE; Graduate Student at University of Wollongong, UAE (Master in Business Administration and Management); and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at University of Utah, USA, in Fall 2014
I studied abroad at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Even though this is not a mainstream study abroad destination and I get a lot of surprised responses when I talk about it, it was the best six months of my life. This experience is by far one of the most influential experiences I have ever had, especially when it comes to self-growth. It allowed me to understand myself better and be more mindful and responsible.
Utah is a beautiful state with lots of mountains, green scenery, high altitudes and snow—and this was something that dazzled me, as a person that was raised in a city with a hot climate! On a personal level, I learned so many new things about myself and the kind of people that I like to be around. I had the opportunity to do a lot of self-reflection while living alone in a new country. I met a lot of new people and learned how to adapt to cultural differences. Moreover, I was able to do new things such as hiking, canyoneering, road tripping and state hopping. These things sound extremely fun and they are! On top of this, the number of soft skills that you develop through such experiences is immense, from planning a trip and budget control, to safety precautions and choosing your travel partners wisely. I have to say that I met lifetime friends from all around the globe during my study abroad. We are still in touch and in fact, we had a reunion in Berlin in 2019, and it was awesome.
On the professional side, studying abroad definitely boosted my resumé and communication skills. This was especially important when I was applying to multinationals, where they look for talent that can flexibly adapt to the company’s culture and have the agility for change management and business transformation. My study abroad experience boosted my confidence and broadened my connections. Hence, I was able to join Unilever and share my experience with them as part of who I am.
I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in the UAE, but back when I was considering travelling abroad for my graduate studies, my study abroad experience was definitely a plus on my application.
I think the biggest gain from the study abroad experience is the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures and mindsets while living outside of your comfort zone. This way, a person will learn to build agility and take ownership of themselves and their situation because they must be completely self-reliant. Moreover, study abroad provides the amazing prospect of applying to your host university again for your graduate studies. Study abroad also provides an incredible travel opportunity—you can be hosted by your friends’ families and watch them celebrate their different religious holidays and eat food and wear clothes from their culture. Such interactions are priceless and are worth being a thousand miles away from home.
Mohamed Abubaker Abdullah, Mechanical Engineering Alum
Graduate Student at Bradley University, USA, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Washington State University, USA, in Fall 2016
Studying abroad was a life-changing experience and I continued to travel [afterwards]. I went to Malaysia, Kenya, volunteered in Thailand and I am currently in the USA. Travelling to a place with a different culture opens your eyes to new things and makes you more open-minded. When I did my semester abroad, I learned so much more about myself; it was like I found myself.
I’m now studying at Bradley University in Illinois, working towards my Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, focusing on energy. During the semester abroad, my favorite course was called Compassion Engines, and it motivated me to explore graduate opportunities and pursue a master’s in energy and thermal relation systems.
Pritika Rajgopal, Marketing Alum
Management Consultant at Accenture Interactive, UAE, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at American University, USA, in Fall 2013
My semester abroad in Washington, DC, was an exciting change of scenery from my university routine. DC in the fall is beautiful and life in the city is vibrant, politically charged and culturally dynamic. Now that I’ve graduated (Spring 2015), it’s clearer in retrospect that my time living abroad was more than just fun; it allowed me to practice independence, self-reliance and really stretch the boundaries of what I know and what I normally do. Since then, it has paved the way for solo travel in Southeast Asia, volunteering abroad in Cambodia, and taking on professional challenges away from home that would’ve maybe been too intimidating had I not experienced studying abroad.
Aside from it looking great on your résumé, studying abroad shakes you out of that auto-pilot mode you find yourself in as a sophomore or junior in university and forces you to be hyper-aware, curious and present in your surroundings. When you’re abroad, you appreciate simple things like good weather, a hike, an interesting class or meaningful conversation much more than you normally would, just because you’re paying attention. It can shock you, surprise you, delight you, and will ultimately change you. That’s my favorite part.
Osama Jasim Mafraji, Electrical Engineering Alum
Quality Assurance Tester at LocTeam, Spain, and Former Advisor of International Exchange Programs at IXO
Studied at San Diego State University, USA, in Spring 2011
Studying abroad had a significant effect on my personal life. It positively changed me, and I see things with a new perspective. I am now more confident and open to trying new things. I moved to Spain after I graduated from AUS, and without studying abroad through IXO, I don't think I would have taken an opportunity like this. I moved to Spain to be with my wife, whom I met during my semester abroad. I took intensive Spanish courses, and I can now say I speak Spanish. In the beginning, it was tough moving to Spain, but studying abroad prepared me for it. I found it easier to adapt having been through the experience, and I knew what to expect. I am now comfortable and happy here.
Career-wise, studying abroad will serve students in many ways. Many companies are looking for people that have the skills students gain from studying abroad. I work in multinational environments, and companies value people that can evolve in such environments. Having these skills is beneficial at the start of one's career.
Dinete Kollanur, Accounting and Business/Management Alum
Graduate Student and Research Assistant at George Washington University, USA (Master in Tourism Administration), and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at University of South Carolina, USA, in Spring 2016
Studying abroad at the University of South Carolina (USC) instilled in me the desire to go abroad and study further in another country. I had a wonderful study abroad experience and it taught me how to be more independent, responsible and most importantly, to adapt outside my comfort zone. I learned a lot about myself from the experience. I was able to personally evaluate my goals, and this helped me moving into my professional career. I discovered my interests and my strengths. Some skills that I would say I picked up were being organized, sticking with a routine every day, cooking skills (which I thought I had none of), and the ability to talk to a stranger and have a conversation, as I was often an introvert.
After I got accepted into George Washington University (GWU) for graduate school, the process that I had to do of filling in forms and documents was similar to what I had to do once I got accepted into USC, such as [filling in] immunization forms and forms for a student visa, payment types, course registration, orientation about studying in the USA, and so on. I had previously completed such forms and it came in handy when submitting my forms to GWU as I knew the process beforehand.
By now, it's [well-known] that the more international background you have, the more likely it is for people in schools or even at companies to accept you, as we are all moving towards a diverse and globalized world. For me, showing that I had studied abroad in the USA helped me get into graduate school in the country, but I'm sure even if you had studied abroad in Europe or Asia and applied to the USA or vice versa, your chances of getting accepted would be better than if you hadn't studied abroad.
Working as a Peer Advisor at IXO definitely gave me an advantage in my professional field. [At IXO,] I was able to demonstrate great teamwork and communication skills. As a tour guide for visiting delegates, I was able to present myself and converse with higher-level management with more confidence and courage. Time management was another skill that I picked up working as a Peer Advisor at IXO, and I was also able to improve my Microsoft Office skills by doing certain projects at the office.
In terms of whether it helps in graduate school, I'm sure that working in IXO will definitely help me settle down in a new city and new university. This is because the experience we Peer Advisors had in settling other incoming study abroad students at AUS will come in handy, such as some of the tips we gave them regarding being responsible, adjusting to a new country and so on. Being around diverse faculty and students will also help me have no barriers when it comes to making friends at GWU. I have also been in contact with some former GWU students who had studied abroad at AUS, and they have been quite friendly and welcoming to their university.
[I believe the biggest gain received from studying abroad is] leadership qualities. When you’re on your own, that's when you are most likely to learn about yourself, and you have to help yourself out rather than relying on others. Traveling and studying abroad in a different country puts you in that scenario. It's not like you are going to be completely on your own; there are definitely people who are there to help you, but you yourself are forced to make decisions that are going to impact your life.
Sonia Soares, Electrical Engineering Alum
Project Engineer at Eyrise Dynamic Windows, The Netherlands, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA, in Spring 2012
After I graduated from AUS, I worked at an American company in Dubai for three years and then in 2016, I pursued a master's degree. Study abroad increased my interest in going abroad again, and this led me to complete my master’s degree in the Netherlands. Study abroad opens your worldview to different people and how people think, not only from different cultural backgrounds, but also from different academic backgrounds. Going to the Netherlands extended my study abroad learning experience in a new direction.
My biggest gain from studying abroad was definitely courage. Before I studied abroad, I think I was less adventurous and curious. These are not necessarily bad things, but having studied abroad definitely increased my self-confidence. The assurance that I can go and do things on my own without being limited or depending on others…having that knowledge and self-confidence really helps you to just do anything wherever you go.
Ahmed Jabr, Civil Engineering Alum
Cost Consultant at IGG Bouweconomie, The Netherlands, and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Utah State University, USA, in Spring 2015
Personally and professionally, the study abroad experience improved my social and communication skills. I was already a social person but studying abroad took it to another level. I learned how to alter my interactions with others from different cultures to make myself more approachable. It also became easier for me to approach others.
Studying abroad [at Utah State University] increased my interest in going abroad again. My biggest regret was not extending my time abroad. After AUS, I completed a master’s program where I spent seven months in Australia, and I currently work in the Netherlands. When I was searching for employment, I included [my] study abroad experiences on my résumé and spoke about them at interviews. Mentioning study abroad at interviews was like an ice-breaker.
Ara Azizbekyan, Management Alum
Consultant at KnowledgeWorkx, UAE
Studied at George Washington University, USA, in Fall 2016
I wouldn't have gotten my current job without my study abroad experience, as KnowledgeWorkx were looking to hire people who had international experience and demonstrated intercultural intelligence and interest.
I have had many international experiences: I have spent a semester at George Washington University, completed an internship in Armenia, and did my undergraduate studies as an international student at AUS in the UAE (as my home country is Armenia). These experiences were a huge part of why I gained employment at KnowledgeWorkx, whose mission is "to be the globally preferred choice for interculturally intelligent consulting, coaching and learning." I joined the organization in 2017 and have completed their ICI and DISC Certifications. While undertaking these certifications, I found that all of my own personal stories that I shared with other class members came from my study abroad experience at GWU. I currently design training programs and develop them virtually for global participation. I find that the KnowledgeWorkx tools and frameworks resonate with my experience.
Studying abroad gave me the desire to travel and explore more. It was a gateway to my personal development; it was the first time I’d ever had to live by myself. I learned how to cook, do grocery shopping, do laundry and just take care of myself (i.e.; not just eating junk food). I lived with three “strangers” in a two-bedroom apartment and had to learn how to set boundaries and respect my own and my roommates' personal space. And finally, I had to learn how to properly balance study, work and play.
Ramy Mostafa, Electrical Engineering Alum
Automation Engineer at Siemens, UAE; Graduate Student at University of Wollongong, UAE (Master of Engineering Management); and Former IXO Peer Advisor
Studied at Louisiana State University, USA, in Fall 2013
Studying abroad was a life-changing experience for me. From enhancing my global network to experiencing a new culture, the benefits towards my education and career were significant. First, studying abroad helped me build invaluable relationships with people from all over the world. I broadened my international connections while having the opportunity to meet people that turned into lifelong friends. Some connections I made even led to career opportunities, including internships and job offers.
Studying abroad also allowed me to see the world and travel to new places that I would otherwise not have visited. During my time away from my studies, I went sightseeing and hiking and attended concerts.
From a professional perspective, studying abroad helped me launch my career and made me more competitive in the workforce. It gave me the opportunity to show my previous and current employers that I have the open mind, resourcefulness and drive needed to adapt to a different environment. Adapting to different styles of teaching throughout my study abroad also helped me adjust to different management styles, making me more versatile in the workplace.
By immersing yourself in another culture, you develop valuable life skills needed for personal growth, including independence and adaptability. These skills can give you an added boost of confidence in your personal and professional life. Studying abroad can be overwhelming, but the challenges you overcome help you become a more mature person. You’ll find that you can now thrive in new, unexpected circumstances, and you’ll boost your communication skills by learning a new language, thus helping you further improve your self-confidence.