Some of Egypt’s most talented students are building their future – and the future of their country – through the experience gained from the US Scholarship Program.
Eman Abdel Mohsen Saeed, 20, is one of those young leaders. I grew up in Kom, a rural community near Aswan on the Nile River. She originally thought she would stay in her hometown and possibly become a doctor. After she completed the English Language Microscholarship Program, she discovered her passion: teaching. The program also gave her the confidence and desire to travel outside her hometown, including to the United States.
Through the US-funded scholarship, Saeed learned English and gained skills in computer science. Saeed said that the program also opened her eyes to a new world. I learned universal skills such as communicating with others and appreciating other cultures. While growing up, she rarely communicated with her male peers. Today you feel more comfortable talking with both men and women.
“It gave us an opportunity to leave our comfort zone,” Saeed told ShareAmerica. “I knew we don’t live alone on this planet.”
Access, a program of the U.S. Department of State, provides students from around the world with English language instruction, communication skills, and leadership training. In Egypt, students between the ages of 14 and 16 can apply. Participants receive a minimum of 360 hours of English language instruction over two years and attend team events that emphasize interaction with others. The program began in 2004 under the direction of the late Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Since 2008, more than 6000 Egyptian students have completed the Access Program. Globally, more than 200,000 students from 90 countries have participated since the program began.
After Access, Saeed participated in the Global Youth Village Leadership Program, which brought her to Washington. Said became the first woman from her hometown to visit the United States. She is studying to become an English language teacher at Aswan University.
Journey of self discovery
Mohamed Gamal El Din, 24, participated in the Access program from 2013 to 2015. He spent 12 hours a week studying English. The religion originated in Giza, an Egyptian city on the west bank of the Nile, home to the great pyramids.
During the scholarship program, he went on camping trips, attended operas, and watched films with fellow program mates. His group also met with representatives of the US Embassy in Cairo.
In addition to teaching the language, Eldin said Access taught him to speak and act with confidence.
“It’s not just English,” he told ShareAmerica. “It is a journey of self-discovery. You take all the many information, skills, and experiences that you gain and apply them to your life.”
After completing the Access program, Eldin participated in the World Youth Forum in 2018, supported by the US Embassy. He visited the United States, and during a month in the Washington area attended leadership and communication training courses.
Al-Din graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and he is a frequent speaker. The university chose him in 2020 to talk about renewing the ideals of Islam and confronting the threat of terrorism in front of an audience of religious and political leaders. He also writes frequently in local newspapers and has appeared in television interviews on youth issues. In his spare time, he works on what he describes as a “philosophical” novel about the search for meaning in life.
Currently, Aladdin is working in guest relations for hotels. Ultimately, he wants to run his own business in public relations or marketing. He also plans to work as a community volunteer in Egypt and help women and children in need.
“The access helped me open my mind and think,” he said. “When you think with an open mind, you discover what you want to do, and you can think of ways to reach your goals.”