U.S. offers Egyptian students English skills and career paths

Some of Egypt’s most talented students are building their future — and their country’s — with experience acquired from an American scholarship program.

Eman Abdelmohsen Said, 20, is one of those young leaders. She grew up in Kom, a rural community near Aswan on the Nile River. She originally thought she would stay in her hometown and perhaps become a doctor. After she completed the English Access Microscholarship Program, she discovered her passion: teaching. The program also gave her the confidence and desire to travel beyond her hometown, including to the United States.

Through the U.S.-funded scholarship, Said learned English and obtained computer science skills. Said said the program also opened her eyes to a new world. She learned universal skills such as communicating with others and appreciating other cultures. Growing up, she rarely communicated with her male peers. Today she is more comfortable talking with both men and women.

Eman Abdelmohsen Said leads an English club for fellow youth in Egypt in 2018. (Courtesy of Nada Mohamed)

“It gave us an opportunity to leave our comfort zone,” Said told ShareAmerica. “I learned that we are not living alone on the planet.”

Access, a U.S. State Department program, offers students from around the world English instruction, communication skills and leadership training. In Egypt, students between 14 and 16 years old can apply. Participants receive at least 360 hours of English instruction over two years and attend team events that emphasize interacting with others. The program launched in 2004 under the direction of the late Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Since 2008, more than 6,000 Egyptian students have completed the Access program. Globally, more than 200,000 students from 90 countries have participated since the program began.

After Access, Said 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 teacher at Aswan University.

‘A journey of self-discovery’

Mohamed Gamal Eldin, 24, participated in the Access program from 2013 to 2015. He spent 12 hours a week studying English. Eldin grew up 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 opera and watched movies with program colleagues. His group also met representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

Beyond the language instruction, Eldin said Access taught him to speak and act with confidence.

“It’s not just English,” he told ShareAmerica. “It’s a journey of self-discovery. You take all the information, the skills and the many experiences you acquire and apply them to your life.”

Left: Mohamed Gamal Eldin in Washington in 2017. Right: Eldin as youth representative and speaker at the Al-Azhar International Conference on the Renewal of Islamic Thought in January 2020 (Photos: Courtesy of Mohamed Gamal Eldin)

After completing Access, Eldin participated in the Global Youth Forum in 2018, through support from the U.S. Embassy. He visited the United States, and during a month in the Washington area he attended leadership and communication training sessions.

A graduate of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Eldin is a frequent public speaker. In 2020, the university chose him to speak about renewing Islam’s ideals and confronting the threat of terrorism before an audience of religious and political leaders. He also writes frequently for local newspapers and has appeared in television interviews on youth issues. In his free time, he works on what he describes as a “philosophical” novel about the search for the meaning in life.

Currently, Eldin works in hotel guest relations. Eventually, he wants to manage his own business in public relations or marketing. He also plans to serve as a community volunteer in Egypt and help women and children in need.

“Access helped me to 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 about ways to reach your goals.”