Over the summer, I had the opportunity to catch up with a good friend of mine and former ACES (2010) classmate, Mohamed El Amri. Luckily for me, Mohamed returned from Morocco, his hometown, with enough time for me to conduct this interview. Mohamed is currently a junior at St. Joseph’s College and is now a biology major. He also shares his experience with the ACES program in this interview.
Emmanuel: So, Mohamed, why did you decide to major in biology? What led to what?
Mohamed: Well, ever since I was a little boy growing up in Tangier, Morocco, I was fascinated with biology. I used to ask my mother to take me with her to the hospital where she worked as a physician, just to wear her lab coat and stethoscope and pretend to be a doctor.
However, in the American School of Tangier, the high school I attended, I completely lost interest in the sciences. I stopped taking sciences and math as soon as they were not required, and developed an interest in humanity subjects such as French Literature and History.
In 2010, after being accepted into St. Joseph’s College, I decided to make my journey across the Atlantic Ocean and enroll. I registered as a Business Administration major, and selected a variety of courses in the fields that interested me. Many of my ACES peers were science majors, and having conversations with them made me reconsider my major. I recall entering the science labs one morning before class, sitting on one of the stools, and reminiscing about my childhood in the hospital.
In Fall 2011, I received an email from the Registrar’s office notifying me that it was time to declare my major: I knew that this was my last chance to pursue a subject for which I had a long lost passion. I immediately contacted Professor Larson, and informed him that I decided to switch my major to biology. He was very supportive and advised me to pursue my academic dreams.
My first classes as a biology major were rigorous. My limited science background, the long hours in lab, and the rigor of the program were very challenging. I spent hours studying and performing additional research to keep up with the class. As I developed more scientific knowledge and techniques, I rediscovered my passion. Dr. Hanophy’s high quality teaching, lab topics, and scholarship also made classes very inspiring and exciting.
Emmanuel: Glad to see you are pursuing your dreams! Let’s talk a bit about the ACES program. I know we were classmates in 2010, but I would like to know from your own perspective, what was the experience like being in the ACES program? And, how has it helped improve your college life?
Mohamed: My experience as an ACES student in St. Joseph’s College has been exceptional. The program’s diverse student body led me to meet and work with students from all around the world. For instance, I was able to serve as Vice President for the Philosophy Club for two academic years alongside you [Emmanuel], who is president of the philosophy club. This position gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest in philosophy and increase my leadership skills.
The College also offered me a wide variety of extracurricular activities and sports. For example, I participated in the Soccer and Volleyball teams since my freshman year. This allowed me to visit new places for tournaments and conferences, enhance my athletic skills, and develop lifelong friendships.
During the past three years, I was also able to pursue my passion for volunteering. I volunteered in the New York Methodist Hospital, an excellent teaching hospital and care center, for two years. The hospital offered me a wealth of opportunities that enabled me to assist those in need over a significant period of time. As an aspiring healthcare professional, this experience enabled me to observe the many different aspects of healthcare and to learn more about the numerous healthcare career options.