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Non-Trad Student Goes All-In On Education

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Non-Trad Student Goes All-In On Education

Leaving a legacy is top on his list

Image: Non-Trad Student Goes All-In On Education

Zaid Abdullah, an automation engineering student at Chippewa Valley Technical College, demonstrated rewiring an electrical box at the Manufacturing Education Center at CVTC. Abdullah moved to the United States from Iraq to further his education.

Zaid Abdullah opened the cabinet and strung red colored wire through the electric box. He weaved it around a notch and through an opening, then he started on the next.

Abdullah, 33, and automation engineering student at Chippewa Valley Technical College, only has one semester of classes under his belt, but he swiftly strung the box with accuracy.

He’s excited to start the fall semester at CVTC in this new country he loves and in a program that he believes provides him great promise.

“I’m hoping to get a job in this field. CVTC instructors have good experience. I love to be involved with them and be happy and proud of myself to complete this degree,” Abdullah said. “I want to leave a legacy.”

Pursuit of an end goal
Growing up in Iraq, Abdullah thought about which countries had the best education, economy, jobs, and people. The United States ranked high on his list. When the idea of moving to the United States was suggested by a captain in the U.S. Army National Guard with whom Abdullah was working in 2008, it got his wheels turning.

At that time, Abdullah was also going to school in Iraq for mechanical engineering. He admits he was too young to leap – at age 19 or so. But the idea stuck. The thought of building onto his mechanical engineering education motivated him.

In 2015, he started filling out paperwork for a visa to enter the U.S., but it was slow going.
“The process of immigration is not easy,” Abdullah said. “The waitlist and clearance and security checks – it took four years. It was worth it.

“If you work hard on something, at the end, you will get it. You need to show you are hardworking, and you have to be patient and work through it.”

Like many CVTC students, Abdullah already had an impressive educational and work history under his belt when he began the automation program earlier this year.

He had a degree in mechanical engineering. He knows at least four languages fluently but still participated in CVTC’s free English Language Learning program before starting classes for his degree. He wanted to make sure he was ready.

Oh, he was ready, said Juli Baker, ELL instructor.

Zaid took ELL classes in fall 2020 and jumped into a full semester course load in spring 2021.
“It was a challenge for him, but he adapted quickly and is very successful in his program classes,” Baker said. “Zaid is eager to learn, and he’s hardworking. He welcomes a challenge and rises to it.”

Baker said coming to a new country, refining his language skills, beginning a program online during a pandemic, and having success “says a lot about his fortitude and determination.”

Not only is Abdullah in a new country, but he’s working full time at a warehouse in Chippewa Falls, and he has received A-grades in all classes he has taken so far – including an eight-week physics course this summer, which he impressively completed in seven.

“I work 10 to 12 hours at a time, but I don’t say I’m tired or stressed,” he said. “There’s difficulty in everything. Never give up. If you fail the first time, try again. Nothing is impossible in this world.”

His main goal is to graduate from the program in December 2022 – a semester early. With support from his instructors, he’s confident he can do it. The final step is to secure a job that he loves while utilizing his robotics skills.

“Honestly, CVTC welcomes all students and will help them,” Abdullah said. “They teach you, and they help you understand the concepts. They build skills in you. I really appreciate their efforts.”

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