Beyond classroom learning: The Sawiris Penn Scholars Exchange Program

The initial cohort of five students from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt are finishing their first semester on Penn’s campus as Sawiris Scholars.

Scholar exchange and study abroad programs are centered on the view that leaving your comfort zone and encountering new perspectives are essential to intellectual and interpersonal growth.

Farah Essam Girat-Allah, Rawan Sleem, Carine Mankarious, and George Habib in front of Penn’s LOVE statue on College Green.
Students in the Sawiris Penn Scholars Exchange Program gather in front of Penn’s LOVE statue on College Green. Pictured left to right: Farah Essam Girat-Allah, Rawan Sleem, Carine Mankarious, and George Habib. (Image: Inspiring Impact)

“At our university, the architecture program is part of the engineering school, so it is very focused on the technical side,” says Farah Essam Girat-Allah, an architectural engineering major from Ain Shams University (ASU) in Cairo, Egypt. “As part of the Weitzman School of Design, there is more emphasis on the artistic and design aspect of the field. Plus, there is so much diverse architecture at Penn and in the city of Philadelphia. It has deepened my love of the craft to have this new perspective.”

Farah and her classmate, George Habib, are part of the initial cohort of ASU students who are spending the 2022-2023 academic year at Penn through the Sawiris Penn Scholars Exchange Program. Created in May 2021 thanks to a generous gift from NNS Foundation—a fund settled by Nassef and Sherine Sawiris—the program is designed for Egyptian students with access to a U.S. education, and to provide cultural experiences for Sawiris Scholars and Penn students.

“The Sawiris Scholars are among the top students at Ain Shams, and they bring their unique perspectives and insights to the Penn campus,” says Amy Gadsden, associate vice provost for Global Initiatives. “Following their year here, they will continue on as ambassadors for our University abroad. ”

Each year, the program will welcome up to five students, majoring in ASU’s electronics and communications engineering or architectural engineering programs, who will enhance their undergraduate education at Penn. Sawiris Scholars are encouraged to access the many resources and activities available to Penn students, including extracurricular programs and student clubs, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, and cultural resource centers.

Among the benefits of their Penn experience, the scholars have noted the accessibility of professors and the expansive options for courses across Penn’s four undergraduate schools. Farah has particularly enjoyed the living-and-learning environment cultivated by Penn’s College House system. “Back at home, student housing is much more separated from the main campus,” Farah says. “I love that Penn is designed to accommodate the communal aspect of college life.”

Read more at Inspiring Impact.