My freshman fall came and went in a blur of campus events, classes, and meeting new people. It overwhelmed me in the best sense of the word. But, I felt something was missing. I had come to Penn Engineering because of the school’s focus on an interdisciplinary education, yet I felt the strong technical background I was receiving was not fulfilling all of my interests in the ways I hoped.
So, for the spring semester, I opted for more difficult courses like ESE224 (signal processing), hoping to expand my understanding of the intricacies of systems engineering. I fell in love with the class. I discovered how to view data sets using mathematics, no matter whose biases and eyes were examining it. I felt this data-driven decision-making had so much to offer the business world, and wanted to learn more through classes in Wharton.
By the second month of the spring semester, I again became restless in my educational pursuits – I wanted to learn more! I had been bitten by the Wharton bug, craving leadership skills and business intuition to apply my data-driven decision-making skills and technical knowledge to the business world.
At this point, it became so obvious to me that M&T’s dual-degree program was the answer. As I reflect back, I regret not considering M&T earlier. Penn’s oldest dual-degree program is one of the most selective in the country, causing it to be seen as “unreachable” and “impossible” to get into unless you’re some sort of alien super-genius. Even when I suggested applying for a transfer to one of my mentors at Penn, he replied with a chuckle and a “you’ll never get in, don’t bother.” Applying was daunting and seemed like an unattainable goal. But, something in me said to ignore this advice and to take a leap of faith and apply anyway, and I’m so glad I did.
Of the conversations I had my freshman year, few were as intellectually stimulating and inspiring as those with M&T students. Just listening to people like Moksh Jawa (M&T’21) filled me with awe. The advice I got from Karim El Sewedy (M&T’20) was invaluable in helping me navigate the academic and social challenges of freshman year. I could keep going and name handfuls of people in M&T that inspired me and impacted my life, but you get the point.
The real power of M&T lies beyond the surface. It’s not the number of degrees you receive or even the resources available to you, it’s the community you gain and the people you meet. The M&T community is incredibly diverse, yet everyone shares a few similar traits: they are intensely passionate and intellectually curious individuals who strive to change the world.
Many of my friends and mentors in M&T gave me the courage to find these traits in myself and apply. Now that I’m on the other side, I see the M&T community that encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and have a little faith in myself will be the same community that pushes me to be a better, stronger, and braver person throughout my time at Penn and beyond.
That constant push is the nature of the M&T community and the main reason I decided to transfer. To anyone thinking about transferring, my best advice is to think about the experiences you want from college. Try to meet the people who will lift you up to be your best self. For me, that was the community in M&T.
Maher Abdel Samad is a Systems Engineering major with a concentration in Business Analytics. He is a member of the Class of 2021 and is highly involved at Penn as Executive Vice President of the Class Board 2021, President of Penn Arabs, a Kite and Key tour guide, and an engineering representative on the Undergrad Assembly. His favorite thing about being in M&T is the great community.