Relocating from a large city in a distant land to a small town halfway around the world was just one of the adjustments that Adel El-Adawy had to make when he first arrived at The College of Wooster in 2007. A resident of Cairo, El-Adawy also had to get used to differences in cuisine, climate, and cultural traditions. Fortunately, communication was not a problem. His fluency in four languages, including English, made the transition much easier and enabled him to settle in more quickly than most.
The son of an Egyptian diplomat, El-Adawy first heard about Wooster from Sarah Fuller, a 1995 graduate, who was working for AMIDEAST, an organization that helps international students find education options in the United States.
"I met with her personally, and she told me about the liberal arts experience," said El-Adawy, who attended German-speaking schools in Berlin, Montevideo, Stockholm, and Cairo while growing up. "She also explained the I.S. program and it truly interested me," he said. "I really liked the idea of having that kind of competitive edge."
El-Adawy, who began studying English in fifth grade, also liked the fact that he could combine his passion for learning with his love for swimming — something he could not easily do in his own country. The deal was sealed when Fuller introduced El-Adawy to Wooster’s Ambassadors Program, through which selected international students research the customs and traditions of their native country and share their knowledge at events on campus and in the community at large. "I was excited about the opportunity to represent my country in a formal way," he said. "The Ambassadors Program looked like a great platform to better understand Americans and to help Americans better understand my culture."
Since arriving on campus two years ago, El-Adawy has blazed a trail of achievement in the classroom and in the water. He has also become heavily involved in a number of campus activities, including Model U.N., the Ambassadors Program, and First-Year Program Council. He is an academic mentor for first-year students, president of the Communication Club, and treasurer of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. On top of that, he works in the library and holds an R.A. (Resident Assistant) position.
Academically, El-Adawy, a double major in communication studies and German, has made the Dean’s List three times in the past four semesters. For his junior I.S., he is analyzing President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world, which was delivered in his home city of Cairo this past summer. Unfortunately, El-Adawy was not able to see the speech in person. "It shows the complexity and bureaucracy involved in the relationship between the West and the Muslim world," he said. "It was another first-hand experience for me to see how sensitive the relationship between the two cultures has become. I tried every conceivable way to gain access to the speech, but I couldn't do it."
If El-Adawy has his way, bridging the gap between the West and the Muslim world will someday be achieved. He is hoping to have a role in improving communication and relations between the two cultures. "There is a major gap between the West and the Muslim world," said El-Adawy, who speaks Arabic, Swedish, and basic French, in addition to English and German. "I think I could play a role in bridging that gap. Like my father, this is my passion. I think it is a prerequisite to development in my beloved country."
After graduation, El-Adawy is thinking about going to graduate school and eventually becoming a communication expert. "Working at an international media organization would be one of the things that would interest me," he said. He is also contemplating public office and may pursue government positions in his native country. Before that, however, he has a few other goals, including breaking school records in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, which are well within his reach.
Regardless of where he is or what he is doing, El-Adawy is likely to have a smile on his face and a word of gratitude on his lips. "I feel very lucky to be here," he said. "Wooster has a really good professor-student relationship and so many resources. Everyone knows each other, and you can do a lot of different things that you couldn’t do at a big school. Every student matters. I would not be here without my family and background, and I am very grateful for these opportunities."
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