International undergrad discovers UBC Okanagan, how to learn, and how to connect on research projects
Fawaz Alnassar took a circuitous route from the Arabian Peninsula to UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.
Now that’s he’s made it, the third-year mechanical engineering student says UBC Okanagan is a perfect fit: “UBC is fantastic!”
“One of the main factors for me is the friendly people here,” Alnassar says. “The activities on campus are great, and the diversity is fantastic.”
While finishing high school in Saudi Arabia, a cousin suggested he look into post-secondary options in Canada. Alnassar took that advice, moving to British Columbia to take English Communication classes at a Vancouver college. After researching UBC and its programs, he made it his goal to become a student. Then, when he visited the Okanagan Valley, he knew he had found his home for the next few years, enrolling at Okanagan College before transferring to the university.
In the beginning, Alnassar struggled at UBC. But he’s excited to share what he learned.
“I struggled with culture shock,” he says. “My courses were challenging and pushed my boundaries. I failed one course—having never failed at anything in my life—and I was shocked! But I didn’t ask for help.
“I was studying alone—trying to learn everything by myself—and I didn’t ask questions. Then I had to retake that course—and failed the midterm again. My professor told me that I could do better, that I was capable of more, and required me to see him in his office. He taught me concepts outside of class, gave me 20 more questions on top of regular assignments. I realized that my success mattered to him! On my final exam in that class I got a fantastic grade!
“Accepting the help that is available everywhere on this campus made the difference.”
For his success, Alnassar credits his engineering professors and their open-door policy. That, combined with research opportunities available at UBC Okanagan, have made him want to finish his studies here.
Alnassar has been working with Dr. Rehan Sadiq after knocking on his door one day and asking to be involved in research. “I wish I had involved myself in research much earlier,” Alnassar says.
“You have to understand what you learn in class in order to succeed in research, but research will help you. Research increased my capacity to study. And the great thing is that because of the size of this campus, students have a much higher chance of conducting research as undergraduates. That’s huge!”
Dr. Sadiq has mentored him since his first year. Alnassar is working with Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Bahareh Reza on sustainability issues related to buildings. “He initially showed strong interest in our research group, and is doing well,” says Sadiq. “He is excited about this path of study, and plans to do his graduate studies with our research group.”
Alnassar is now involved in research with a local company while continuing his engineering studies. “Local companies are involved with UBC’s Okanagan campus,” he says, “and it’s easy to get connected, if you’re interested.” He credits his research connections to his professors and the quality of education he has received in the School of Engineering, along with the level of involvement that UBC Okanagan has within surrounding communities.
When asked if there were other programs and services that made an impact on his experience, Alnassar didn’t know where to start—so he started ticking them off on his fingers.
Alnassar recommends Supplemental Learning as an important part of studying. He spends a large amount of time in the UBC Okanagan Library. He’s become involved in Toastmasters through UBC’s Engineering Undergraduate Society and numerous campus clubs. And he credits International Programs and Services with making “UBC’s Okanagan campus feel like home.”