UAE to UNL: ‘The Good Life’ another mile marker for globetrotter

 

MOHAMMED HUSSAIN AL ABDULLAH 

AGE: 23

MAJOR: CHEMICAL ENGINEERING 

HOBBIES: CYCLING; RUNNING; CULINARY CONOISSEUR

 

FAVORITE SAYING: “KEEP YOUR WHITE MONEY FOR A BLACK DAY” (Don’t spend your excess provisions unwisely, save it for the troubles ahead). 

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When the United Arab Emirates needed him to win big, his legs burned against heavy pedals. When his cultural curiosity met unique opportunity, he embraced global citizenship. When he felt a calling to represent the minority at a foreign university, he immersed himself in student government. Whether it’s on a bike track, on an airplane, or on campus, Saudi-born but Dubai-raised Mohammed Hussain goes the distance.

Hussain, characterized by his gentle tone and deliberate speech, can be seen around the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying, hustling to meetings, or forging new friendships. Fellow international students know him as the ASUN international representative entrusted with bringing their concerns directly to the chancellor. Shortly after arriving at UNL in 2013, Hussain was awarded a membership in the Character Council and inclusion on Vice Chancellor Juan Franco’s list for students who promote integrity and good will on campus.

Huskers witness this amicable nature of his every day.

“Try to be positive and smile 24-seven if you can, but don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Hussain, recalling his original strategy for assimilation.

Unlike his soft charm, Hussain’s journey to Nebraska isn’t obvious on first impression.

His road cycling club spent five years training in Eastern Europe for a three-day, pan-Arab competition. When race day came, Hussain, then only a teenager,  medaled for the UAE. Twice. The reward? Finishing his private high school education in the U.K., free of cost. According to Hussain, all the early life traveling had conditioned an appetite for adventure. So unsurprisingly, Hussain’s post-high school life involved various work opportunities in places like Belgium and Japan. By the time he got accepted into UNL, Hussain had traveled around to 13 countries; the culture shock he experienced in the U.S. was relatively low-voltage compared to most other first-time abroad students.

What also helps is that Hussain picks up languages like souvenirs. Should he ace his Japanese course this year, it’ll bring his language count to six. Hussain is empowered by the belief that some of the distances separating people, like linguistic ones, are perfectly surmountable. Sometimes, these distances are even illusory.

“I wish people wouldn’t make friends just based on names, religion, or color,” Hussain lamented.

“Just make friendships because we’re all human.”

The subject of what it means to be ‘human’ instantly engages Hussain. A casual mention of it will cause him to excitedly lean in and start proselytizing.

“I don’t care how your name sounds, how much you have in your account, or what your religion is,” he said.

“The only business to me is how you treat yourself and how you treat other people.”

It’s clear that Mohammed Hussain loves going the distance—for others.

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