When Hadil Abdallah first came to London, Ont., from her home in Alexandria, Egypt, to pursue her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering, she could never have anticipated the life-changing experiences she would encounter in the next few years.
Abdallah has always had a passion for architecture and sustainability, obtaining her bachelor’s degree in architecture and construction from Alexandria University in Egypt. Looking to continue their studies, Abdallah and her husband made the decision to move to London to each pursue their graduate studies at Western.
“When I first came to London, I fell in love with it,” said Abdallah. “It’s a beautiful city that reminded me of my hometown, and Western in particular has an architectural charm.”
Initially enticed by the campus’s historic buildings, Abdallah soon met Dr. Girma Bitsuamlak and Dr. Ayman El Ansary, professors in the department of civil and environmental engineering, and she became further inspired by the diversity and acceptance within the faculty.
During her second term of studies, Abdallah became pregnant with her first child, Selim. She recalled some of her fondest memories at Western after her maternity leave, while completing her studies on the impact of wind loads on high-rise buildings.
“Selim attended most of my meetings, tests and preparations,” smiled Abdallah. “My team and supervisors were always there for me, supporting me with everything they could. We spent a lot of time together and built friendships and memories that I will never forget.”
Abdallah admitted there were certainly ups and downs involved with being a new mother and a full-time student, but she quickly recognized that her son was her source of motivation and strength.
“I pushed myself harder for him, and I got all the support, love and encouragement I needed from my husband, professors and team.”
Throughout her studies, Abdallah received both a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) graduate scholarship and a Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (SOSCIP) award for her research, affirming that her hard work and sleepless nights had certainly paid off.
“These moments are unforgettable,” she said. “All the stresses and hard times just fade away and leave behind a success story.”
As a young mom and member of both the Western Engineering and Muslim communities, the recent tragedy that took the lives of Madiha Salman and her family shook Abdallah to the core.
Abdallah and Salman knew each other well, having worked together as teaching assistants for an undergraduate course, and the news of the family’s senseless deaths left Abdallah feeling heartbroken, frustrated and unsafe.
“Madiha was an angel, a pure spirit who everyone loved and respected,” said Abdallah. “Although this act showed us hatred from one side, it also showed us love, support and compassion from the community around us. This support proved to me that we’re one family that stands for each other no matter what, and that is what we should be fighting for — love.”
In her message of solidarity, Abdallah shared some heartfelt words of wisdom for all to consider: “Teach your kids to love, respect and accept people for who they are. Our diversity is our strength.”