Tag Archives: Engineering

Cross-cultural learning: one Saudi student’s experience at USD and beyond

Name: Metaeb Alohali

Country: Saudi Arabia

Major: Electrical Engineering

Languages: English, Arabic


I am Metaeb Alohali (far right above photo) from Saudi Arabia. I study Electrical Engineering and am in my junior year. I chose USD because I have always dreamed to come to San Diego when I was in high school. Two of my uncles have studied in the 80’s in San Diego, and from what I heard from them, it is heaven on earth. When I looked at the schools in San Diego, USD was my first option. I choose my major because I have always been passionate about math and sciences, and thankfully I still enjoy it. Since I entered USD, my social life has changed in several aspects. First, I get to meet people from all over the world and become friends with them. Having diverse friends made me think differently and better understand different cultures and religions. Second, I enjoyed joining the executive board members of the Muslim Students Association, Saudi Students Association, and the club of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers also known as IEEE.

Last semester, Fall 2014, the OISS at USD hosted the “A is for Arab”, a traveling exhibit that examines stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs in pop culture. The brilliant guest speaker Dr. Mietek Boduszynski (far left in above photo), a political science professor at Pomona College and former US diplomat in Albania, Kosovo, Japan, Egypt, and Libya, was invited to make the key-note speech. What made Dr. Boduszynski’s experience so special was that was in the Middle East during the Arab Spring; moreover, he was assigned to Libya when the tragic assassination of the US ambassador to Libya happened. At the exhibit Dr. Boduszynski spoke about his experience, some facts about the Arab world and clarified some of the wide spread stereotypes about the Arabs. After his speech, I had a great chance to chat with him and he asked my Arab friends and me to meet personally with his students at Pomona as part of his Middle Eastern Affairs class.

We visited his class in March and I made sure to choose a diverse group of students to go there, so that his students would hear different experiences and political views. Jamal Jamal from Kuwait (Muslim-Shia), Huda Kahin from Somaliland (Muslim-Sunni), and myself (Muslim-Sunni). Jamal and I first began speaking about our countries and the Arab Spring for about 10 minutes. Then, the students started asking all of us questions about politics, religion, culture, and so on. They asked smart and deep questions that indicate they have a very good knowledge about the Middle East. The students seemed very eager to meet Middle-Eastern students and get a personal view about the Middle East. Students asked questions about the current political events in Saudi Arabia and the region and our views about them. They also asked how we view our conservative culture and whether we agree with it or not. They had a little misconception between our conventions  and the governmental rules in Saudi Arabia; for example, they asked why every Saudi girl that studies abroad has to have her brother or father with her. The reason is not because their families won’t let them, but because the government won’t give them scholarships.

It was a really great opportunity to go there and speak about my country and answer questions they thought were taboo about religion, culture, and the government. I was told that there are no Saudi students in Pomona College, so for some of the students I was the first Saudi they ever met which made me feel honored.

Studying abroad in US for me is a really good chance to learn about the American culture in particular and other cultures in general. Though, to me, studying abroad alone is not enough to get a good knowledge about a certain culture, it’s also important to make friends with people from different backgrounds and hang out with them. Since I came to the US, I learned so much about different cultures and eliminated the stereotypes I had. Also, engaging with different people makes me more open-minded to try diverse habits and behaviors that are not in my culture. Fortunately at USD, I rarely find stereotypes about Saudi’s. The majority of people I met at USD are well educated and have knowledge about the outside world. Another factor is there a lot of Saudi students who study at USD which made it easier for me to introduce or clarify things about my culture. Also, San Diego is an open and diverse city, therefore, the community is less vulnerable to believe stereotypes that are spread in the media and often discriminate against Arabs and Muslims. All in all, I will never be able to explain my experience in the US in couple of hundred words, but it is absolutely a joyful and successful part of my life that I will never forget.

-Metaeb Alohali



Julian: Changing Hats from Mechanical Engineer to Professor Soccer Player

Name: Julian Ringhof

Country: Germany

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Language(s): German, English


FullSizeRender“Hi Toreros! My name is Julian Ringhof and I was a student-athlete and international student at USD and graduated in Mechanical Engineering in December. But for now I left the engineering world behind. Growing up in Germany I started playing soccer when I was four years old. My entire family has always been very passionate about sports and becoming a professional athlete had always been a dream of mine. However, knowing that an athletic career doesn’t last forever and could come to a sudden end because of injuries I didn’t want to chase that dream at cost of a good education. So after going to university in Germany for one year while playing soccer semi-professionally I decided to transfer to a school in the United States to become a student-athlete. The college sports system in the US presented a great opportunity of keeping the dream of potentially becoming a pro athlete alive while receiving a great education on an athletic scholarship. A compromise the European college system doesn’t provide.

Unfortunately my path to USD was a little longer and more complicated than it could have been. My first two years I went to a state school in Los Angeles. Even though I had a great time at Cal State LA it became clear to me that for both a better soccer program and a better academic institution I needed to transfer. Transferring as a student-athlete however, is a rather complicated. I don’t want to go into details but it was quite the risk to ask for a release from my old school and potentially losing my entire athletic scholarship in order to reach out for other schools. Just coming back from an ankle surgery and not being able to train at the time made the process of finding an athletic scholarship at a better school even more complicated. Luckily Seamus McFadden, the head coach of the soccer program at USD, took the chance and offered me a transfer to USD to become a Torero. All it took for me was one visit to the beautiful USD campus and I knew this was where I wanted to go.

IMG_2503What followed were the best two and a half years of my life. I assume most of you don’t take the opportunity of studying at USD for granted but believe me being able to compare it to a regular state school made me appreciate it even more. The family-like atmosphere among students, professors, coaches and administration is what makes USD such a unique experience. The sense of community on campus is something that most European universities and many commuter schools in the US such as my first school do not have.  This sense of community is why I call USD home and why friendships with teammates and classmates at USD will last a lifetime. It’s only been a few months since I graduated but I already miss being a student-athlete at USD.

But as sad as it is that this chapter is over now the career opportunities that I have thanks to USD is more than I could have dreamed of when I first decided to come to the US. At a USD career fair my senior year I was offered a job by Solar Turbines, an international subsidiary of Caterpillar and arguably one of the best engineering companies in San Diego. And the job I was offered was exactly what I wanted my first job to be like: travel around the world for engineering projects.

However, I ended up not taking the job. This is because I was able to make my dream come true and become a professional soccer player. Two weeks ago I signed a contract with the Rochester Rhinos in New York to play pro soccer in the United States. Still understanding that an athletic career is limited to a few years the only reason I’m taking this chance of playing in the second tier of American soccer is because I have a degree in engineering from USD in my back pocket, the best career safety valve I could imagine. I’m sure sooner or later I will return to the engineering world.IMG_1731

So what can I say; I don’t think this journey of coming to the US and transferring to USD as a student-athlete could have turned out any better. Yes, it was a lot of hard work and being on the soccer team while earning a degree in engineering required a lot of sacrifice. But thanks to my friends, family, professors, coaches, the great support of the International Office and maybe some good German efficiency and time management the last two and half years were incredibly fulfilling and pure joy. Thank you USD and GO TOREROS!”

-Julian Ringhof

Ana Soloviov: SIBC Project Brings Students to South America

From Inside USDAna Soloviov, a sophomore Industrial and Systems Engineering major, spent her spring break in South America. A native of Chisinau, Moldova, Soloviov was one of five USD students educated about beverage products created and sold by Guayaki, a Fair Trade company. The trip was through the USD Student International Business Council (SIBC) and its Guayaki project.

I joined the SIBC as a freshman. What attracted me most was the organization’s mission to promote peace through commerce. There are multiple projects within this club, each one helping non-profit companies or having a socially positive impact on the world.

The positive energy of the Guayaki project leader, Cathy Kelly, led me to it. Our goal is raising awareness of the tea products made by the Guayaki Fair Trade Company. We set up a table each Wednesday and give away free samples of fresh-brewed Yerba Mate tea. Learning more about the properties of this magic drink, I realize how much energy it gives your body without the side effects of coffee. I couldn’t stop sharing this idea with friends and other students at farmers markets. At the end of my first semester, Cathy asked me to become a leader.

For the past three semesters, while sharing the leadership position with Cathy, her sister Denise and currently Beau Seguin, we’ve made great progress. Our team has grown and the Guayaki supply in the refrigerators at Tu Mercado quickly empty. The number of events where we represent Guayaki has increased exponentially. I’ve created a good base of resources, including annual reports, spreadsheets of positions, journal of minutes and photos.

The reward for our hard work was to travel with four other USD students — Beau Seguin, Katrina Warren, Kate Reid, Alexis Rinker to South America. We visited the plantations of Yerba Mate and the indigenous people helped by Guayaki. We successfully visited multiple plantations and tasted the local culture.

This trip would not have happened without Cathy and Denise, who are from Paraguay, guiding us during our stay. In 10 days, we visited four countries — Panama, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil — and drove more than 1,600 miles. Almost nothing went as planned, but unexpected is always best.

We took a four-hour taxi tour to the Panama Canal between flights, went to its museum, drove through the reconstruction of the old town and learned how much the country is developing.

In Paraguay we stayed at the Kelly’s family house and were introduced to a common tradition of drinking terere (cold Yerba Mate) served from aguampa (gourd, filled with loose leaf) by pouring iced water into it and sipping through a bobmilla (filtered straw). We drove to Encarnación, by the Argentina border, and got crushed mint and other leafs for ourterere. On the way to visit the ruins of the Trinidad(pictured, right), a World Heritage site where one of the first missionaries was built in the 17th century, we stopped on a side road to pick as many guavas from a tree as possible. It was delicious!

We crossed the Parana River to Argentina and stayed at the Kelly’s family ranch in El Timbo (Corrientes) for two nights. We experienced farm life by milking a cow, watching as our lunch lamb was killed, rode horses with Gauchos, swam in a muddy river bordering Brazil and explored fields of Yerba and Eucalyptus plantations. We visited local leather shops and toured plantations and factories from two Yerba Mate companies, including the world’s largest mate production plantation (Taragui has more than 10,000 hectares of mate and another 10,000 for other types of tea). We visited the Guayaki company office and plantation, which is smaller and less industrialized than big companies. It’s also organic and traditional as they handpick all leafs.

The biggest attraction was Iguazu Falls, considered the world’s most beautiful and the biggest by the number of falls (more than 270). El Garganta del Diablo is the throat of the falls where the vast majority of the water plunges. The accompanying rainbow was more than three-quarters of a circle, butterflies stayed on your fingers and crocodiles, toucans (pictured, left) and other birds made the falls in the rainforest seem like paradise. We also visited the local zoo, which gave us more insight into local biodiversity.

We wanted to cross the border back to Paraguay by ferry, but it was down for three days due to the Easter holiday. We settled on a 40-minute drive through Brazil. We passed through one point that borders three countries (Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil) and stopped at a gas station and discovered how tasty Brazilian coconut water is. That night we couldn’t find our destination and, instead, stopped in the middle of nowhere. But when I looked up, I was shocked by the amount and size of the stars. We could clearly see the white smoky area of the Milky Way! When we arrived at our destination, we toured the rainforest, walked on a hanging bridge over a river, ziplined and went canoeing.

My first trip to South America was an awesome experience. I learned a lot about local culture, especially how much it’s linked to Yerba Mate with Paraguayans drinking cold terere and Argentineans drinking hot mate, the equivalent to Americans drinking water. On the business side, I realized big investments involve big risk and require a long-term foundation, but that pursuing something you’re passionate about on a small scale gets you further and make you happier. I learned some Spanish and had a lot of fun with my friends. I’m grateful to USD for funding such organizations as SIBC, which supports such socially ethical companies as Guayaki and encourages students to take leadership roles.

After this trip I value each sip of my Yerba Mate even more because I know how much time and effort it takes to grow (10 years), store (one year), package and ship to the U.S. I saw the common struggles of Third World countries to fight corruption (Argentina) but I realized only hope and belief could rescue a country to regain its pride and will to change the future (Paraguay). I can now relate this to my country, Moldova, and to personal life in general.

— Ana Soloviov

Photos courtesy of Ana Soloviov