Exploring new options at Northampton Community College: Ahmed Awadalla
“Northampton Community College was a community before it was a college.”
Northampton Community College (NCC) is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the United States. This community college offers Associate's Degrees, certificates, and diplomas to over 30,000 students each year from all around the world. NCC is the most affordable college in the state of Pennsylvania and it maintains an excellent teaching faculty and staff.
SchoolApply interviewed Ahmed Awadalla, an international student who graduated from NCC in 2010, who has, thanks to his NCC experience, successfully switched fields and altered the course of his life.
Northampton Community College opens up opportunities. Believing that NCC, students can achieve anything, our students go on to top-ranked schools, careers in business and engineering, politics and science. Our alumni, like Ahmed Awadalla, embody the spirit of community, engagement, and dedication which are hallmarks of NCC.
– Nathan Carpenter, Interim Director Center for Global Education and International Services, Northampton Community College
Northampton Community College
Location: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Student Name: Ahmed Awadalla
Graduation: May 2010
Favorite class: American National Government. It was my favorite class because it was something new. It was the first time in my life that I studied politics and the governmental system. What made it more interesting was that I took the class during the election of Barack Obama, so we were watching the news and the debates on TV and also attending the class.
Favorite school event: The student orientation is always an amazing event. There is music, food, and drinks, and everyone is talking about their departments, clubs, and organizations. Everyone is so friendly and the weather is amazing – it is sunny and beautiful that time of the year – and the atmosphere is a warm and relaxing one.
Five words to describe Northampton Community College: Eye-opening, Unforgettable, Multicultural, Enriching, Diverse
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Egyptian, 35 years old and currently working as a delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in Mosul, Iraq. I received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Northampton Community College in 2008 and I graduated in May 2010. I am from a small, rural village in the northern part of Cairo, Egypt. Prior to studying at Northampton in the United States, I had never traveled outside of Egypt.
What were your school experiences like before university?
I studied in public schools in Egypt. I graduated from an advanced technical high school in Egypt, which is a five-year school program after middle school where you take several years of generalized studies before embarking on a specialization. I specialized in Electromechanical Technology.
How did you hear about Northampton Community College and what made you decide to study in the US?
I was working as a teacher for the Egyptian Government in a government school when I heard about the Fulbright Scholarship that would allow me to study in the United States. I had not considered going abroad before and had not planned for it, but the opportunity came around and so I applied and was accepted to study at Northampton Community College.
Did you have any problems adjusting to life in a new country and university?
Starting out, I was quite concerned about the language barrier as I didn’t speak English. When I received the scholarship, I enrolled in an English course for six months. At the time, I was also working as a full-time teacher in Egypt during the day. So in the afternoons, I would attend a four-hour English course five days a week.
When I went to the United States, it was not only my first time visiting the country, it was also my first time traveling outside of Egypt. So you can imagine it was quite an adjustment to understand the culture and the traditions and to get past the language barrier. But it didn’t take me long to adapt and feel comfortable and accepted and I always received the support I needed from the staff and administration.
What were your first few days in Northampton Community College like?
Honestly, I was a bit scared. I didn’t know what to expect and it was also my first time traveling abroad. I had so many questions running through my mind – what is it going to be like? What am I supposed to do? Who does what? Who should I communicate with and who should I coordinate with? – The first week was particularly challenging as I tried to find answers to all these questions, but after that everything was better and easier.
At orientation, I not only met lots of new people, but I also received a lot of useful information and the opportunity to interact with the staff at the International Office. Everyone was very helpful and prepared to answer all the questions the international students had and they reassured us that they would explain everything to us. This was a tremendous thing to hear – to have people helping us and telling us everything would be okay. Having said this, however, you soon realize that things aren’t as challenging as they may seem at first. Everyone is so supportive and helpful and people appreciate your presence in the community. That is why this experience was so unique; the term ‘community’ was truly what the experience was like. Northampton Community College was a community before it was a college.
What degree did you pursue and why?
One of the stipulations of the Fulbright Scholarship was that we had to continue studying what we had already studied in Egypt; for me, that was Electromechanical Technology. So, I studied a two-year Associate’s Degree in Electromechanical Technology at Northampton Community College. Basically, the Fulbright Scholarship aims to strengthen your knowledge in the program you had already completed.
Do you take part in any extracurricular activities?
I ran for the Student Senate and I won, so I became a Student Senator. In addition to this, I was the Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa (the International Honor Society of Two-Year Colleges) and a member of the Political Science Club. I was also one of the founders of the school’s Model United Nations Club.
What has your academic and social experience been like as an international student at Northampton?
It was an experience that changed my life. It helped me start a new life and a new career – everything changed after my time at Northampton Community College.
Academically it was very rewarding. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA, which I was very excited about and the professors were excellent and accessible. Grades were not only based on exams but also your participation in class and attendance. We don’t have this type of system back home and I found it much less stressful and it really helped me to do my best.
The student life was also great as there were many activities and events that students could get involved in and even learn about other cultures. For example, a group of international students, including myself, participated in an event called Africa Week where we made presentations about our culture. The event was not only for students, the professors and community all participated in the event, too.
Tell us a little about the location and things to do around town.
Northampton Community College is located in a town called Bethlehem. It takes only a few minutes to get downtown where you can find many restaurants, cafes and other places to visit. I was living in the dorms which are just across the street from the college, so this was very convenient for me. On the weekends we would go to New York, Washington DC, and Boston. One spring break my friends and I even went to Florida as a group. The Fulbright program required us to explore the culture of the United States and learn about the history of the country, so part of the program involved traveling and visiting different places.
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How did NCC prepare you for life after college?
Deciding to leave my home country and study in the United States changed me in every way possible. It also prepared me for the many changes I encountered after graduation.
When it came to the institution itself, I am grateful for the diverse classes offered at NCC, such as communication classes, American National Government, and foreign language classes. I used the skills I learned in these classes in future job interviews and relevant meetings. NCC made me confident, well-prepared and skilled. The support I received from the professors and college advisors helped me make the right choices. The relationships I had built with the college staff during my time at NCC are still strong and vital. It has become a habit for me to visit NCC every time I travel to the United States. It is as if I am visiting my family members that I haven’t seen for a while.
Did your studies support your interest and talent?
I studied Electromechanical Technology while at Northampton Community College, but as I mentioned before, my favorite class was American National Government. It was a political science class that taught me about the American government, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and politics in general. It was required that we take this class, but I was super scared as everyone said it was a very tough class. However, taking this class made me want to change academic direction and study political science.
I met with my advisor and told her that I really wanted to study political science. She advised me that it would not be the best idea at the time as I was halfway through my degree. She explained that I would only complete half of my current degree and half the Political Science degree because as per the program/scholarship I was enrolled in, I would have to go back to Egypt after I finished that program. So I took her advice and I finished the Electromechanical Technology program.
Later, I applied to another school in the United States because I wanted to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree, and at that point, I switched my major to political science. So I graduated from Northampton in May 2010 and in January 2011, I started my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with double minors in Economics and International Studies at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. After graduation, I was accepted into the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science, where I got my Master’s Degree in International Relations. Then I went back to Egypt and worked for the Egyptian Government.
Where have you been working since you graduated from university?
What I do today is direct because of my American National Government class at NCC. I am now working as a delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross. As such, I work in countries torn by armed conflict and other situations of violence and try to help affected communities to recover. At the moment, I am based in Mosul, Iraq.
What would you say to international students who are considering studying at Northampton Community College?
Northampton Community College is a wonderful school, both from an academic as well as a community perspective. The college community makes you feel like you are home and the people in the departments know you by name.
The Career Center staff are very helpful as they aid you in defining what you want to do in the future and advise about career opportunities. They helped me get an internship which gave me the practical knowledge to complement my theoretical studies. There is also an alumni association through which the school stays in touch with all their graduates.
Overall, Northampton Community College is a wonderful place – the weather is great and there are many activities, sports clubs, and associations that you can take part in. So, from all angle,s it’s a great college and I would recommend that international students definitely apply.
If you are interested in finding out more about Northampton Community College, click on its SchoolApply profile page for more details!
About the Author: Muneeza Kizilbash grew up in the United States and Pakistan and was active in her university’s International Student Council. Now settled in Dubai, she loves to inform, educate and entertain her readers through her writing.