Many of us can think back on our childhood and remember the experience of going to work with our parents for a day. There was a certain excitement — maybe even a future fantasy of living the “grown up” life — as we visited the office, walked the halls, sat at their desk, and pretended to be a teacher, software programmer, or shop owner.
For Anas, an electrical engineering student at the University of South Carolina, the “take your child to work day” experience was a little different: It was tagging along with his father to a massive power station that generates electricity for regions of Saudi Arabia.
“My father works for the Saudi Electric Company (SEC), [and that is where I] developed the excitement of being a part of [the engineering] industry,” says the Jeddah native.
Exploring the inner workings of SEC power stations and discovering how power is produced and transmitted to millions of people stirred his passion for science, and ultimately inspired him to choose electrical engineering for his major.
Upon graduating from high school, Anas was accepted to King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), one of the best engineering colleges in Saudi Arabia. His college career soon took a detour, though, when he was accepted to the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Education’s sponsorship program. As a sponsored student, he would receive free tuition in exchange for a commitment to work for his sponsor, arranged by the government.
Learn more about how to earn sponsorships and apply for student visas >>
How Anas Chose Electrical Engineering at the University of South Carolina
With a sponsor covering his tuition, fees, and other expenses, Anas had big intentions and bigger aspirations — he set his sights on attending an Ivy League college or other Top 20 university.
“I was thinking by coming to the US that I would go to MIT, Stanford, UCLA, or another famous university,” says Anas. “However, my sponsor provided me with a list of seven universities that I had never heard of. The University of South Carolina was one. I spent quite some time to finalize my decision. I chose UofSC, and if I could go back in time, I would go down the same road.”
Anas enrolled in an advanced English program in South Carolina to prepare for the fast pace of engineering coursework, and then he went on to begin his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Power Electronics at UofSC in 2019.
Read why international students are looking beyond Ivy League schools >>
Arriving and Thriving on the UofSC Campus
Anas credits UofSC’s International Accelerator Program (IAP) and the Shorelight campus team with being a lifeline of support when he arrived on campus and was adjusting to life in the USA.
He says his first week of classes was not as overwhelming as anticipated, thanks to the orientation run by the “awesome orientation leaders.”
“They were more of a family than leaders,” says Anas. “Also, I met a lot of international students from all over the world, who made Columbia like a home for me.”
The IAP — an exclusive first-year program offered through Shorelight — includes campus support services specifically designed for international students, who can look forward to help with tutoring, ESL courses, dorm room setup, shopping outings, career services, and weekly social events. Bonus: It’s all included with tuition!
“The weekly trips were one of the best memories I have,” says Anas. “We went to a lot of new places and did a lot of different activities: amusement parks, historical sites, beautiful beaches, hiking, and much more.”
Full Speed Ahead, Thanks to the Career Accelerator
Also included as part of the IAP track is Shorelight’s Career Accelerator, an optional (but highly recommended) multi-semester career program that helps international students get and succeed at internships and job placements. Career Accelerator students have been hired at Google, JPMorgan Chase, Facebook, WhatsApp, Hewlett-Packard, KPMG, Motorola, and more.
As a sponsored student, Anas was originally not interested in taking Career Accelerator workshops because he is already guaranteed a job with his sponsor in Saudi Arabia after graduating. Then he started receiving enthusiastic emails from Career Services manager Jason Rickey encouraging students to join. Anas reluctantly signed up.
“I was so lucky to get involved in [the Career Accelerator]. This program changed the way I think, completely,” says Anas. “I learned how to build a professional mission statement from scratch. I learned how to write an effective resume, cover letters, elevator speech, LinkedIn profile, mock interviews, and more professional training and guidance.”
“I am so grateful for Mr. Rickey and this program, because it redirected my career compass to the direction of success,” Anas continues. “I would not have had all these prosperous experiences without this program. I highly recommend and encourage all students, especially internationals, to enroll. The [Career Accelerator] changed my life, and I am sure it will change a lot of other [people’s lives] too!”
Powering Up at his Volvo Cars Internship
Because he has a guaranteed job after graduation, Anas was not going to pursue an internship in college either, but the Career Accelerator sessions changed his mind.
“I was told how beneficial it is to have an internship during college, and how advantageous it is to have a workplace experience related to your major,” he says. So, in January 2021, Anas met with Jason Rickey to create his resume and discuss how to apply for his first internship.
Anas conducted industry research on South Carolina-based companies and set his sights on Volvo Cars. After a few rounds of interviews, he received an offer to join Volvo’s Quality team.
As a quality engineer intern at Volvo, Anas worked on several projects for the production line training team, including helping to develop a game unit, deferent equipment, A-B-A SWAP troubleshooting processes, and an automated bolt board for training stations.
“The internship was one of [my] most favorite experiences I have had in the States,” he says. “It was my first time going inside a car plant. I saw how cars are being built from the ground up. It was very fascinating for me!”
The demands of the fast-paced internship — along with being in the American workplace for the first time — was not without its challenges, he says. “But I managed to overcome it.”
“I had to interact with more than 200 people across the plant to successfully implement my assigned projects. I learned a lot of things working on the floor with different people,” he says. “I learned teamwork skills, the automotive industry, quality inspection skills, communication, presentation, robustness, stability, and how to be out of my comfort zone.”
Anas’ Road to the Future
His internship at Volvo has inspired him to continue in the automotive industry.
“I learned a lot of things working in the quality department, and how it is very essential especially in the automotive industry,” says Anas. “The work culture, the people were super welcoming and friendly. The workplace was also diverse, with people from all over the globe. Everything about the Volvo plant was perfect.”
And the feeling is mutual — Anas has been offered a full-time job at Volvo after graduation. Due to his scholarship commitment, though, his plans are still undetermined because of his obligation to work for his Saudi sponsor for four years after he earns his degree. Additionally, he let his manager at Volvo know that he has plans to attend graduate school at UofSC.
Volvo’s response? We’ll sponsor you.
“Honestly, I am still not sure about my future,” says Anas. “However, Volvo is ready to sponsor me for my grad school if I have a thesis for the company’s advantage.”
Sounds like you’re in the driver’s seat, Anas.
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