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Isra H.


Program: University Connection

Sixty-eights steps from Fisher-Bennett Hall to my inspirational desk on the tranquil fourth floor at Van Pelt Library.

I never imagined that a stressful moment would turn out to be a lifetime experience, and for sure, an experience that contributed to shaping my personality.

September 26, 2019, was the arrival day to Philadelphia. First and last impressions are important to me, so I remember being welcomed by the awesome Lisa Taglang at the airport. A week later, after settling in, we, the Omani scholars, had a meeting with the amazing UniConn (University Connection Program) advisors and were introduced to the university application process and, most importantly, to the famous "application essays." At that point, I realized the opportunity the scholarship had to offer, but at the same time, how challenging the journey would be.

Two days later, I woke to the gentle pitter-patter of rain on my window. I pushed the blankets off, immediately feeling the warmth of sleep begin to slip away. I stood up and realized this was the day. After one month of all-nighters preparing for the SAT. I took the SAT, and I did my best, but like any student, I asked myself, "What if I didn't get what I worked for?"

It was not until my inspirational advisor, Erick Hyde, introduced one of the best universities that doesn't require the SAT. It focused more on the supplemental materials, and challenges the student for the admission. I realized then I must change my plan.

I retook the SAT twice not only to meet the universities requirements but to challenge myself and prove that numbers will never define who I am.

The seven week-long roller coaster ride of the application process with Erick Hyde started. I created a list of 11 universities that do not require the SAT, but at the same time keeping in mind, as all UniConn advisors say, choosing the best fit is the key to having a fantabulous university experience.

With my family's support, I've always been motivated and goal-driven. And so not being in person with them, the UniConn advisors became my second family. Room 143 (Erick's office) became my dad's office, and room 142 (Lisa's office) became the source of my hope. I successfully submitted my application to eleven universities, and the first session at Penn ELP came to an end.

Moreover, I wanted to grow as a person, and so the second session started with me being a student ambassador at Penn ELP, and to be honest, it was one of my favorite experiences. I traveled the world just by having conversations with the ELP students and sharing my values, culture, and traditions at the student center. With the willingness to listen to others and accept our differences, it became easy to build friendships of different ages from around the world. I also joined in many activities. I helped organize Omani National Day and joined the hiking trip, Washington trip, and New York trip, among many others.

I was amazed by the unique personalities I met in the SUSSU class ( Skills for Success at US University). I learned how everyone is unique in their way just by being them. I found myself taking long walks after the class, going to my mind, and challenging my thoughts. I not only learned the strategies of being a successful student but also how to have a healthy social life. Importantly, a big thank you to my teacher, Leah, for introducing the instant gratification monkey because I understood never to give the ship's wheel completely and how to be a better procrastinator.

The third session was not as anticipated. Classes moved to remote instruction due to COVID-19, but with the hard work of ELP teachers and advisors and the student's collaboration, it was an experience to be shared with the next generations. I traveled halfway across the world from UPenn, to Oman. I was overwhelmed with the emotions of receiving tons of emails from my teachers and advisors, showing their care, and how understanding they were of my situation.

Philadelphia, specifically Penn ELP, will always be the return destination, not only to me but many Omanis

"What if I didn't get what I worked for?" Then I must have achieved more than what I envisioned. Erick Hyde, thank you for introducing me to Wake Forest University. I'm a Demon Deacon for life.


""What if I didn't get what I worked for?" Then I must have achieved more than what I envisioned."