Grad finds volunteering, advocacy ‘life-changing’

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For his first two months at Western, Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed was content to be ‘just’ a master’s student in Engineering. He put his head down. Studied hard. So intent on learning everything about everything, he enrolled in eight courses instead of the requisite four.

Then something happened.

“I fell in love with the community. It’s a privilege to be part of the city and Western. I wanted to give back. I started looking for volunteering opportunities – whether it was within Western or London.”

He volunteered for Western Foot Patrol, Orientation events, Let’s Talk Science and Science Rendezvous, as well as with the Ontario Summer Games.

Then he was chosen to represent Western’s Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) at a Canadian Federation of Students event in 2018. After that, he served two terms, including this past year as Vice-President (Advocacy) for SOGS.

His work on behalf of Western’s 6,500 graduate students has helped shape Western’s Anti-Racism Policy, Student Code of Conduct, and Sexual Violence Policy. He has also influenced provincial and national decision-makers.

Along the way, he also earned a 95-per-cent average in his courses en route to a master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

On June 19, Mohamed will join more than 300,000 Western alumni living around the world as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2020.

In 2017, he applied to Western after earning his undergraduate engineering degree in Cairo working a couple of years in the industry. “Knowing that Western has a very strong reputation worldwide in the science of wind engineering, it was a perfect choice for me.”

Under the supervision of Western Civil and Environmental Engineering professors Ashraf El Damatty and Ayman El Ansary, he examined how electrical transmission towers can topple like dominoes during tornadoes and how to design towers and lines that can withstand tornado-force winds.

Adding volunteering and advocacy into the mix required A-level time management.

“I just tried to make the most out of my experience at Western. I knew there was a lot to learn and experiences to get outside of my studies, as well,” he said. “To be honest, it cost me – I graduated one semester later than I should. My journey took two and a half years. But it’s a compromise I’m OK with.”

Mohamed is home in Egypt right now – the first time he has seen his family in almost three years – having nabbed one of the last tickets on the last flights out of Canada this spring. The middle of three brothers, he is now spending time with close friends and extended family, who have supported him throughout his education.

“The moment they saw me and heard about my experiences, heard about my journey, heard about my achievements at Western, they knew the time I spent apart was for a purpose. They even commented on how my personality and my charisma grew.”

When health and travel restrictions lift, he will return to Canada as chairperson of the national graduate caucus for the Canadian Federation of Students, which represents the interests of more than 500,000 domestic, international, graduate and undergraduate students from universities and colleges across the country.

For all he has achieved, a part of him wishes he had done even more. “Try to get involved as much as you can,” he advised other students. “Try to have a work-life balance. Try not to miss out on the experience.”