Mohamed Yahia’s recipe for traveling to the United States to study cybersecurity was equal measures of determination, ambition, and courage, plus a huge dose of luck.
An important element – knowledge of English – was missing. “I couldn’t speak. Unable to write. Unable to communicate,” he said. “It was very hard.”
TCC Sud-Est could solve this problem, but it had to come from Sudan first. “There was no opportunity there,” he said. “We didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have a computer, we didn’t even have electricity.”
This is where the luck happened. Yahia applied for a “Green Card” work permit through the U.S. Department of State’s Diversity Visa (DV) program, which provides about 50,000 visas a year to people from countries with low immigration rates to the states. -United.
It was a chance, but slim. The program welcomes applicants from more than 180 countries – from Albania to Zanzibar – and there are around 20 million participants for the 50,000 slots. Also, beating those odds did not guarantee a visa. What Yahia has “earned” is the right to apply for specific DV program visas. He still had to pass a background check and have at least a high school diploma or equivalent work experience.
It was not a problem, but the obstacle he faced when arriving in 2019 to live with a Sudanese friend was daunting. “I told him that I wanted to finish my studies, but I couldn’t speak or write English,” he said. “He immediately took me to South East Campus and enrolled me in the Basic English as a Second Language (ESL) course.
Yahia has few fond memories of those early classes. “I didn’t understand anything,” he said, “and I felt bad for the teacher because she tried her best to make me understand.”
However, as he progressed through the six levels of ESL classes, his English gradually improved. “The teachers were very nice,” he says. “They helped us. Sometimes they translated a lot of things for me to understand.
After completing all ESL classes, Yahia moved on to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, completed all three levels, and then passed the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) test, which which allowed him to take college-level courses. He is full of praise for the teachers and says they taught him and his classmates much more than vocabulary and grammar. “They really made it understandable,” he said, “how to read a text, know the main idea, the argument – a lot of things.”
Yahia is enrolled in the cybersecurity program and is on track to graduate in May 2024, after which he wants to transfer to the University of North Texas for a bachelor’s degree. “I told my parents that I wanted to be in an IT field,” he said. “I couldn’t do that in my country, but here I have the right to do anything. Now I am a student – a successful student.
Melody Nguyen, Southeast’s ESL/ESOL program coordinator, is proud to consider Yahia a major achievement. “His story is a good example of how important the programs are to the community. Students don’t just come to TCC to learn the language. We help them pursue their dreams and goals.
This has not been easy. He worked two jobs – one delivering goods for Amazon and the other in the CVS Pharmacy Assistant Training Program doing drug deliveries. “It’s hard to be here without my family, he says, it’s hard, but I can do it. I have a big family, so I have to send them money and also work hard for my classes.
Yahia’s pursuit of the American dream is by no means limited to education. He had two years left on his visa but plans to apply for US citizenship. He wants to get married and start a family. He wants a well-paying career, but says it’s not just about the money. “Yes, I can get the money,” he said, “but think about it. I can have a future.