From Egypt to Oregon Tech: A Fulbright Student's Journey to Degree
A few years ago Andrew Boules, a native of Suez, Egypt, was ready to change careers. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the American University of Cairo, Andrew had been working in the oil and gas industry, but his heart wasn’t in it. He wanted to stay in the energy field, but was interested in renewable energy options and approaches. There was a new excitement about renewables, progress in systems and advancements happening quickly. He wanted to be part of that movement.
But the stumbling block was affording a master’s program which would most likely have to be outside of Egypt because of availability. That’s when the option to apply for a Fulbright scholarship arose. With nothing to lose, Andrew applied, took the GRE and TOEFL exams. He soon learned he was shortlisted for the Fulbright, had an interview with officials in Cairo, and soon received his acceptance letter. That’s when he discovered Oregon Tech’s unique master’s in Renewable Energy Engineering and was accepted into the university’s Master’s program in REE offered at the Portland-Metro campus.
In fall of 2016 Andrew arrived in Wilsonville, which was his third trip to the United States. He dove straight into his intense studies, and worked hard to also meet the challenges of living full time in another culture. From a hot, dry climate to the rainy and often gray days in the Portland area, Andrew had some separation pains, but has now gotten used to his adopted home. While he misses Egyptian food, he loves sampling other cuisines at the food carts in downtown Portland such as Korean, Indian and Thai food. He felt somewhat isolated in Wilsonville without a car, but has since purchased one and that has expanded his ability to explore the environs in and around the area. He went camping with Oregon Tech classmates to view the eclipse this summer, causing a bit of anxiety for his parents because he was out of cell range for several days, which he hadn’t realized would be the case, and they were unable to reach his for their regular check-in call.
Andrew feels safe and comfortable in the Portland area and hasn’t faced any negativity or rudeness because he is from a foreign land. “Portland is pretty progressive. Of course, bigotry exists all over the world, and we have issues in Egypt as well. I admire the American system here because its democracy means that Americans can disagree with their President.”
While the REE program is academically challenging, Andrew loves the subject matter and his professors. He’s beginning to determine his plans after graduation but “nothing is set in stone yet, and all possibilities are open.” One possible path Andrew is considering is to continue his studies and apply for a PhD in clean/sustainable energy. He is also considering seeking employment in the U.S. at some point in the future, but will first return to Egypt, get a job and share his American and Fulbright experience with his fellow Egyptians. “Eventually I’d like to be part of the decision making and policy making in energy for the government of Egypt.”
For now, he’ll continue to work on completing the MS in renewable energy engineering, with graduation now only about six months away, in June 2018.
Dr. Hope Corsair, director of the Masters in REE program said, “Andrew has been a real asset to the program. Of course he brings with him a strong academic background and industry experience. Perhaps more importantly, he shares a different point of view that helps students see renewable energy from a more global perspective.”