SFU Political Science alumnus cites adaptability as the key to his success now and in the future

October 10, 2023

On January 12th, 2019, Esam Salahaldeen Abdullah Al-Mohamadi arrived in Canada for the first time. It was the start of his journey as an international student at Simon Fraser University, studying political science. Though that journey was sometimes challenging, Al-Mohamadi found the subject matter he studied engaging and the people he met inspirational.

Al-Mohamadi attended high school in Saudi Arabia, and it was there that he first became interested in political science. He decided that he wanted to continue studying political science at university and the best place to do that was in Canada. However, once he arrived at SFU, he experienced homesickness.

“I felt sad to be away from my family and my home,” says Al-Mohamadi. “I had kind of anxious and stressful feelings. It was my first experience travelling away from my immediate family, but it was important for me to have this experience, to make me stronger for my future.”

Some aspects of B.C. surprised Al-Mohamadi as well. The short winter days, when the sun sets at 4:30 p.m., and the long summer days, when sunsets happen at 9:30 p.m., weren’t something he’d experienced before. However, he managed to adapt and sees them as all part of the “great experience” of living in the lower mainland.

Unfortunately, Al-Mohamadi would need to adapt more than he ever expected when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in 2020.

“I found it difficult to adapt to the new learning modes that we had with COVID,” he says. “It was my first time taking courses online. After the first two or three months, I adapted to it. I was able to make some achievements during that time.”

Like many people, Al-Mohamadi also felt depressed because he could not go out with friends and speaking to them on the phone was just not the same.

“It was depressing for me because I used to be social,” he says. “Especially in our culture, we used to see people four or five times daily for daily prayers. In COVID, you are alone, no one knows about you, you don’t know about others. I was having long phone calls with many guys and family members, but I didn’t feel happy.”

Eventually, Al-Mohamadi flew to the United Arab Emirates where his family was living, and returned when he could take in-person classes at SFU again.

Throughout his time at SFU, Al-Mohamadi enjoyed political science classes focused on energy policy and climate change politics. He is fascinated by the rapid developments in these fields, and the important role they play in people’s daily lives. He considers his honours project, LNG Exports: A Comparison Study Between Australia and Canada, his greatest achievement during his undergraduate degree.

Al-Mohamadi had Professor Andy Hira as his honours project supervisor, and he also worked as a research assistant for him. Al-Mohamadi says he has learned many things from Professor Hira, including to be patient and not to be disappointed by failure.

Professor Andy Hira & Esam Salahaldeen Abdullah Al-Mohamadi

“One time Professor Hira said, ‘as a researcher or a student, you have to feel that you’ve gotten lost in a desert, but you have the map. You need to follow the map and you need to try all the directions around you to get to your destination.’ That advice was so valuable to me. I try to apply it in my daily life as well,” says Al-Mohamadi.

Al-Mohamadi’s future plans include getting his master’s degree in political science at SFU and entering the job market in the near future. Having also completed the social data analytics minor, he feels that he has the technical skills employers are looking for. In terms of where he works, Al-Mohamadi is keeping an open mind.

“It doesn’t matter where I work in the world,” he says. “One thing I have learned from my experience is that I have to adapt to any circumstances that I face. You are competing to get a job, so if you find one that you are excited about, just go for it.”