Mohamed Ashmawy’s Story
As retold by Dakota Holzwarth
I am a modest man and perhaps I don’t give myself enough credit for all my hard work but I’m simply a man who believes that the finer things in life aren’t given. They are earned and if you don’t invest your time and work hard for what you love than it makes life much harder. The world is filled with endless possibilities and your work ethic is crucial in order to succeed in reaching your goals. That is why America to me is the land of opportunity and is a fantastic country with multiple benefits especially the educational benefits and the second chances it has to offer. I am a firm believer that family is where your home is and my home is now here in the United States. My family consists of my wife and my two daughters along with my brothers. My name is Mohamed Ashmawy, and this is my story.
There is nothing more important to me than education. My education began as a child growing up in Egypt. At a young age I was taught to focus on my studies and failure was not an option. I went through elementary school, primary school, and secondary school. From there, I wanted to pursue engineering but I tested a half point away from heading into that direction. I was devastated to know that a half point had the power to change the course of my life. So I proceeded to further my education in science. It wasn’t until three semesters in I realized this specific field of study wasn’t for me. I was very conflicted as to what I should do but I decided to study economics at a different school and it was in this field that received my bachelor’s degree. With this degree, I worked in Egypt’s textile industry for nearly 15 years in rather high positions.
At this point many people would think I’m successful, but to me I felt I hadn’t reached my full potential. I felt I could do more and be more. I decided to move to the United States in 2012 to achieve my master’s in Business Administration at the University of Michigan.
Moving to the United States wasn’t as much of a culture shock only because I have been to the U.S numerous times previously for business and work. The first place I arrived in the United States was Chicago. It seemed as if the world moved so fast around me and all I could compare Chicago to was Cairo, the capital of Egypt. It took time to adapt to the American lifestyle but it became easier and easier to accept America as my home. I was already comfortable with the English language since it is used regularly in Egypt.
However, listening to my favorite artists and bands like Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and many other singers also helped me get the hang of the language. Although I knew English well, my accent was a little difficult for others simply because people all around the world have different dialects.
Living in Chicago assisted my ability to communicate with others in a much more profound fashion. I became a taxi driver which worked out to my advantage because I was able to communicate with American natives every day. Not only was I communicating with other fellow Americans, I was also making some money for schooling. There was always a lot of excitement when driving the cab around Chicago because I never knew who I would transport, and let me just say that weekends it was always the most humorous when I had to drive intoxicated individuals.
I also had the opportunity to be in other parts of the country. California, undoubtedly is my favorite part of the United States. I cannot begin to exaggerate how beautiful it is there and to me San Diego is the best city in the whole world! Some of my best memories are in San Diego with my family. My family and I would visit the beach often and soak up the sun and after a long exhausting day would sometimes go to the local Japanese buffet, which had the most amazing food. There were plenty of options for dining and I absolutely love how culturally diverse it all was.
Another place I love in the U.S is Wisconsin. The summer of 2016, my family and I spent some time there by taking a ferry boat from Muskegon across Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is so utterly gorgeous and from there we arrived in the beautiful city of Milwaukee. I love to travel with my family because it gives us the opportunity to try new things and have the experience of a lifetime.
Although I enjoyed all the beautiful places I have been, the reason I came to the United States was for the educational system and the fact that second chances are given. Here in the United States, the education system is more flexible in comparison to Egypt. For example, a half point wouldn’t have stopped me from getting my engineering degree. In addition, in Egypt schooling there consisted mostly of memorization rather than long term retention. After an exam most students would not have any knowledge of the subject two or three days later. However, in the U.S, I am being tested over my intelligence and it takes a lot of practice to understand completely what you are studying.
Because of these opportunities, I love America and everything that it stands for. My only dislike is the discrimination. I wish nothing more for this social issue to diminish because it is absolutely ridiculous, and I wish some people were more open minded to people like my family and I. I am a civilian here in the United States and I love it here, but I would much rather feel secure than scared for my family.
I would love to see a unified world one day for everyone, not just me. Although, discrimination is an awful social issue, diversity brings this world together and America is a very diverse country. I believe I can achieve the American dream by working my absolute hardest and I am doing my absolute best to prove that to my family, so my children can grow up and have the inspiration and motivation to succeed in this beautiful country.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Immigrant & International Students’ Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan.