Odai Smadi: making here home
All of his life Odai al Smadi dreamed of coming to America to partake of its opportunities.
“I have been obsessed, passionate about electrical engineering,” said Smadi.
He worked hard to graduate from Jordan University with his bachelor’s degree and follow in his father’s footsteps as an electrical engineer.
Odai al Smadi spent 23 years in Ahman, Jordan with his two brothers, two sisters, his mother, and his father. Eight months ago, in August, Smadi moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University’s graduate program in pursuit of his master’s degree in electrical engineering.
Adjusting to life in the U.S. was hard for Smadi at first. Smadi said that he came here with no friends and no family other than an uncle who lives in Dallas. However, worse than the lack of family in the area was the fact that there is a 10-hour time difference between Dallas and Jordan.
“When I wake up in the morning, the people I know are still sleeping,” said Smadi.
It was hard for Smadi to stay in contact with his family. The problem was not a lack of love or even the price of a long-distance call. Rather it was something as simple as a shift in time. His life no longer intersected with the lives of his family members
“The U.S. is very far from Jordan, on the other side of the world, the end of the world even,” said Smadi.
He knew that he had to start a new life; he knew he had to find friends.
“If there was one person I would call friend, it would be Abdullah Zatar,” said Smadi.
Abdullah Zatar was a graduate student at SMU who spoke both English and Arabic. Smadi said that Zatar helped him to feel comfortable in the U.S.
Zatar introduced him to members of the Middle Eastern Students Association, helped him navigate him through the mine field of 21st century English slang, and was there to help ease his transition.
“Sometimes I wouldn’t understand a joke or something,” said Smadi, “and Abdullah would translate for me.”
In the midst of the shift, Smadi found comfort in his craft.
“Engineering is good because there is a language across all nations, current and output are the same in Jordan and America,” said Smadi.
The other language that does not change is that of kindness. Sophomore Syed Hassnain Rizvi said that he met Smadi at an Islamic outreach event in the Hughes Trigg building at SMU. He said that he, Smadi, and other members of the Muslim Student Association were answering questions about the Eid Al Adha holiday and that Smadi dealt gently and patiently with a man who was being rude at the event. Rizvi also said that Smadi used to help him with his Arabic homework.
As Smadi has pursued a career in electrical engineering here in America he has encountered another translation issue.
“Electrical engineering in Jordan has more to do with maintenance and distribution. In America, they want you to create, to design,” said Smadi.
Smadi said that he has begun to delve into new facets in his field, learning the American style of electrical engineering so that he can begin his career here.
Smadi, who now holds a green card, said that he wants to gain full nationality so that his parents can come to live with him. He said that it would not make much sense for him to go home without becoming an American.
“I will not go home until I get full nationality,” said Smadi.