Noor Edin Amer shares his journey from being a public school student in Jordan to scholarship recipient and graduate of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jordanian Noor Edin Amer, 21, recalls how his life changed forever after he was awarded a scholarship to King’s Academy in Jordan, and later to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, where he is now is in the final year of a four-year undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
"I grew up in a rural area in Jordan and went to public schools for most of my life. That all changed when I was 13 after I applied for a scholarship to King’s, a new school which offered a mixture of Arabic cultural values, and the American educational system. It brought something else new as well: the idea of scholarships and financial aid, which had not previously been prevalent in Jordanian society.
"I was pretty good at most of my subjects, and I enjoyed learning everything, but the sciences stood out for me. During my first year I took biology and that was a great challenge because biology is all about terminology, and it was all conducted in English. I’d never really used English in my life before, just the alphabet and a few words, but I managed it and I’m grateful, as without it I would never have been able to come to MIT.
"That semester I got an A grade and that was the moment it really clicked for me: that I was good at sciences and I could do them at this higher level. Later I fell in love with chemistry; it was easy for me, logical, and I thought it was elegant as well.
"I didn’t know anything about the American college system, but I knew I was going to do something in STEM and at that time I was starting to learn some programming, which was very cool, the amount of things that you can do with a computer programme. I had a computer science teacher who was also one of my best friends, and even though I was just starting out I knew I wanted to take it to the next level at university. MIT seemed like the best choice if I wanted to do engineering and computer science, and so that’s how I ended up here.
"My siblings are very proud and supportive, and so too are my parents. My parents don’t know much about MIT – to them, it’s just another school – which in some ways is a good thing because it keeps me humble. If I get a B grade my mother will scold me and even though I try to explain that this is MIT and it’s really hard, she will keep insisting I should be getting A’s.
"This coming summer, my parents will travel to the US for the first time, to see me graduate. That will be really special and when I think about it, I’m overwhelmed by the thought of the enormous generosity that has changed my life. It may sound cheesy, but it’s difficult to state in any other way. In my senior year at King’s I discovered that the supporter of my scholarship was Mr Rabea Ataya, the founder and CEO of jobs portal Bayt.com. I have since spent time with him, he’s a great guy, and I count on his incredible support even now.
"I have tried to show him how thankful I am for his support, but at the end of the day I think the best way to do that is to show him that I am learning and growing. I have so much respect for him, and that propels me to perhaps become someone like him, and hopefully support students myself in the future.
"If my experience has showed me anything, it is that the only barrier between you and your aspirations is yourself. If you work hard and have confidence in yourself you can accomplish anything. There are also a lot of good people out there and money should never be a constraint on your aspirations. Scholarship programs make me really hopeful for a better future in the Middle East to help more youth get the opportunities they deserve."
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