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Overcoming the odds

  • mohammad

Mohammed Alnahdi says Unitec’s support gave him the confidence he needed to finish a Certificate in Applied Technology - Electrical Engineering and go on to complete a Bachelor of Applied Technology - Electrotechnology with top marks - despite a huge personal setback.

When Moha moved to New Zealand from Saudi Arabia in 2015, he didn’t know what to expect from a country that appeared so vastly different from his homeland.

“I honestly couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like in New Zealand! But, when I arrived it was so friendly. I love the culture, New Zealanders are really respectful of people from overseas. I also immediately loved the environment and staff at Unitec - they really helped me settle in. When I first started, our class was taken onto the Marae at Unitec. We were shown how to respect the Maori culture, how to communicate. I loved it.”

Settling into New Zealand

Moha began his Certificate in Applied Technology - Electrical Engineering (now called New Zealand Certificate in Electrical Engineering), Level 3, in 2016. His social nature and love of football saw him meeting new people and settling quickly into life in New Zealand.

“I’m crazy about football! Since I’ve been here I’ve played for East Coast Bays and the Mount Albert first team, as well as a lot of futsal, so I’ve made many friends and connections that way. In fact, I got my first job through one of my teammates - working as a Customer Service Representative at The Warehouse. I worked there part-time while completing my Certificate, and it gave me great experience in terms of using a different language and dealing with people from a different culture.”

Moha finished his Certificate with top marks and decided to go on and complete a Bachelor of Applied Technology - Electrotechnology. Unfortunately, things didn’t continue quite as smoothly for him.

“On the first day of my Bachelor's degree, I had a heart attack. It was completely out of the blue, perhaps related to all the football I was playing. I was lucky to pull through - but it certainly gave me a fright and was a huge setback in terms of my degree.”

Doctors advised Moha to stay at home and rest for a year. But, against all odds, he was back walking to his Unitec classes after just three months.

“I took a couple of months off to recuperate, but I was determined to get back to my degree. That was the reason I’d come to New Zealand and I wanted to complete it! The lecturers and tutors at Unitec were amazingly supportive throughout this time, and gave me the confidence to continue.”

Moha went on to complete his Bachelor's degree with an A+ in 2019. He says the teaching style at Unitec really helped him achieve his best.

“The way they teach at Unitec is amazing. They understand the individual student and what they need, and they’re so flexible in their approach. In each course we would start with the basics, to give us confidence in what we were doing. They encouraged independent learning, but would step in to check on us and point us in the right direction when we needed it. It was really beneficial for me and gave me the confidence to push myself.”

The development of Smart Table

Moha’s final year project saw him design and deliver something called Smart Table - a security desk that triggers an alarm if anything is removed from it without the access code.

“Most offices these days are open plan, and you often need to leave important items on your desk to rush off to a meeting. Smart Table means you can put things on your desk and no one can remove them unless they have an access card or code. When I started the project I came up against a lot of issues but, thanks to the support of my Unitec Project supervisor, by the end of the semester it was perfect.”

After finishing his degree, Moha went for an interview at Altrax Group - world leaders in the design, manufacture, and support of industrial weighing, measurement, and control systems for the airport and logistics industry.

“Altrax designs and manufactures the machines that weigh your luggage at the airport - among other things. I was hired as an Electrical Assembler/technician and was due to start just after Christmas 2019. I went home to Saudi Arabia for a short holiday before my job began - then COVID-19 arrived and now I’m stuck!”

Mohammed hopes to begin his job when he’s able to get back into the country. But, in the meantime, he says his biggest piece of advice for international students coming to New Zealand to study is to get to know the culture.

“Many overseas students get homesick, but I found that if you immerse yourself in the culture and get to know the people - whether through sport, study, part-time work or even just meeting your neighbours - it really helps. It also makes you far more employable at the end of your degree.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study in such a wonderful country, and want to express my gratitude to my parents - who helped me get to New Zealand and supported me throughout my degree. I’d also like to thank my Project Supervisor Jone Tawaketini. He helped me so much throughout my final year, and without his assistance, I wouldn’t have finished my project on time.”


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