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Hamilton is now home

The Faculty of Engineering is the most diverse faculty at McMaster University. Find out why Sa'ida Shdaifat, a Chemical Engineering student from Jordan, made the decision to call it home.

Moving out of your parents’ house at the age of 17 is, for many teenagers, a daunting thought. But for a bright-eyed, open-minded student with a natural ability to lead, the thought excited her — even though doing so meant leaving behind Jordan to a new country halfway around the world.

“From the moment the plane touched down in Canada, I was excited and happy,” says Sa’ida Shdaifat. “Canada is a very welcoming and inclusive place, and at McMaster, the Faculty of Engineering is especially diverse. The students are helpful. There’s a real sense of community. Hamilton is now home for me.”

Like many McMaster University students, Welcome Week was Shdaifat’s introduction to the clubs and teams on campus, as well as the students who make them happen. It propelled her to join Engineers Without Borders. Now in her third-year of Chemical Engineering, Shdaifat is still part of the club, which has a goal of promoting human development through access to technology as well as its effective policies.

Through workshops, the opportunity to apply engineering skills to social problems not only broadened Shdaifat’s horizons, but allowed her to hone the leadership skills she so deeply values, as well as management and business skills in a collaborative, hands-on environment.

Sa'ida Shadaifat.

“Leadership roles are where I excel,” says Shdaifat. “This is what McMaster helped me realize.”

However, even those who excel have moments of doubt.

During a first-year Physics course, Shdaifat felt discouraged about her path and was struggling through obstacles such as not understanding the English translations of niche scientific terms and definitions. She approached her Physics professor, Reza Nejat, in search of help.

“There are too many language barriers,” she remembers saying. He took the time to talk to Shdaifat, revealing that he, too, had the same struggle many years earlier. A native Persian speaker, studying Physics gave him the same difficulties as his young student. He told her that if he could make it, she could, too.

“Looking back, it was the moment I overcame my fear,” says Shdaifat. “Professor Nejat pushed me to do what I needed to do.”

It turns out, Nejat was right — Shdaifat is thriving, earning top grades in her program.

McMaster’s interdisciplinary approach to learning, an experiential focus and the collaborative community on campus allowed Shdaifat to quickly pick up on her strengths and gain the focus and confidence to pursue what she loved.

The Chemical Engineering program provided her with a solid foundation of fundamentals and the opportunity to specialize in math and physics, but most importantly to Shdaifat, the program made her realize her passion and talent for business.

The advice she received from Nejat continues to influence her, and she has some of her own words of wisdom for international students who may feel unsure of their choices and path.

“You’re going to be homesick for a while, but before you know it, you’ll have a new family of friends in Canada,” says Shdaifat. “Remember to bring pictures, courage and confidence.”