American Univesity of Beirut

Nadim Zaiter’s Philadelphia Experience

Nadim Zaiter, a senior in computer science (Class of 2022), is the first USP scholar nominated by AUB to benefit from the exchange student program offered by the scholarship fund. His one-semester (Fall 2021) at Temple University in Philadelphia was an unforgettable experience for Zaiter, especially for having the opportunity to meet other exchange students from all around the world. In addition to experiencing the American culture, he had the opportunity to learn about different cultures and expand his network of computer science experts. 

At Temple University, Zaiter took three computer science courses, one of which is Machine Learning, a subject that was stimulating for him because it was totally new. In addition to his major-related courses, he also took a course entitled Law and the American Society, which introduced him to different US laws through a variety of case studies. Dissent in America, a history course, provided him with an insight into the lives and activities of amazing dissenters who struggled to make their community and the world in general a better place. Zaiter feels quite lucky for having the opportunity to take this course which was taught by a professor, himself a dissenter and an activist who protested the Vietnam War and civil injustice in the US. 

Zaiter recalls his experience living in the US as such: “Philadelphia is a diverse city, so there where people from all over the world. There was a lot in common between me and every person I met; deep down we are all the same, and one can rarely find someone with whom he/she doesn’t have anything in common. Yes, a lot of my friends were exchange students from different countries and visiting the US for the first time, but it was amazing to spend time with them, and learn about their cultures and be a part of their experience.” 

As a USAID scholarship student, USAID covered most of Zaiter’s study expenses; for the rest of the expenses – as travel ticket, entry visa to the US, part of the rent and some of his living expenses – he had planned ahead of time and saved accordingly for this “unforgettable experience.” Although he did not stay at the University dorms, he rented a room in a shared apartment with other students, adding to his experience of interacting with other students. At first, he had some adjusting to do living in a strange and new city, but ​Zaiter says that once he made friends and discovered the various activities one can do in Philadelphia, he became more comfortable and less anxious. Another challenge was exploring the big city itself and getting around, but that was also overcome once he learned about the transportation system.
On a personal level, Zaiter admits he became more knowledgeable and aware of diverse cultures and communities, their traditions, customs, beliefs, histories. On a professional level, his newly established connections with his professors is now an advantage as he seeks to continue his studies in the US. His professors from Temple University have been helping him not only with pointing him in the right direction, but also with applications and recommendation letters. “Such connections can help me make it through life,” admits Zaiter.

Finally, Nadim Zaiter says, “I will be forever thankful for the USAID scholarship. Without this support, I would not have been able to study at an esteemed university like AUB, let alone have the opportunity to travel and study partially abroad. This experience has been life changing, and without it, I would not be the person I am today. If it weren’t for USAID, I would not have made the progress that I have made from this experience.”

Zaiter would recommend other USP scholars to apply for an exchange program. He advises his colleagues with these words: “Based on my experience, there is nothing more liberating than going into an exchange program abroad. You discover yourself when you leave your comfort zone. Life starts outside our comfort zone, so we need to take big risks. Living on your own changes you; you become more independent and experienced. Also, getting to learn about other cultures is fun and fascinating.” He further advises other USP scholars to start planning ahead of time to explore new places, new people and new activities. With much enthusiasm, Nadim Zaiter encourages his fellow students to take this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to make new friends, establish an international network, and create a different kind of unforgettable memories.

Photo Captions:

  1. Nadim Zaiter (first from left) with other exchange students at Temple University​
  2. ​Nadim Zaiter at a Baseball game at the Citizens Bank Park Stadium in Philadelphia

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