Far from Home: Yara Elsaied transitions from New York to Erie

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Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of an international student at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

An unfamiliar setting. New faces. New sights. New scents.

It doesn’t scare Yara Elsaied. She’s done this before.

Elsaied is in her first year as a student at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. While Erie, Pennsylvania and Behrend are entirely new for Elsaied, the United States is not. The Cairo native has grown quite fond of the country over the past couple years.

Yara Elsaied walks to class on a fall afternoon.

Yara Elsaied walks to class on a fall afternoon.

In 2013, Elsaied, who had been studying at The American University in Cairo, went to the United States to study at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, as an exchange student.

She didn’t come back.

For one-and-a-half years, Elsaied attended Stony Brook and learned about American culture. She saw the sights of New York and forged many great relationships. Still, something was missing.

“I always wanted to come here (to Penn State Behrend),” says the senior accounting major, who transferred to Penn State Behrend this fall.

Stony Brook did not have an accounting program, which is what made Behrend so attractive to Elsaied, who one day hopes to work at one of the Big Four audit firms.

The skyscrapers and busy streets that were constants in Elsaied’s life have been replaced by green fields and colorful leaves. She says that she has enjoyed Erie and Behrend in the time she has spent here so far, but she does get homesick.

She misses her family—mother Noha, father Ahmed, sister Mayar (17) and brother Zediad (6)—but now she also misses her New York “family.”

“It was very hard to leave New York, especially one of my best friends, Gabriella.” says Elsaied. “I actually didn’t know how to tell her I was coming here. Thankfully, she totally understood.”

Food has been another challenge for Elsaied. In New York, she was able to get the ingredients needed to cook Egyptian food, but that’s not been the case in Erie. She said she longs for a nice plate of Dolma Mahshi, her favorite Egyptian dish.

But Behrend does have other advantages that help keep her in touch with her heritage.

This fall, the college welcomed 186 new international students, the largest international class ever.

“Compared to New York, there are actually a lot more Egyptians here. The community is much larger here,” Elsaied says.

So far, Elsaied says she enjoys the new friends she has made and also enjoys her coursework. While she misses Cairo and New York, she’ll get a taste of both of them over the holiday break. Her sister will be visiting at that time and the two of them have planned quite the excursion with visits to New York, Florida, Las Vegas, and California all on the to-do list.

A trip to the west coast during an Erie winter sounds like an ideal getaway for Elsaied, who has quickly caught on to one of her new home’s most notable traits.

“Erie weather is so different one day to the next,” Elsaied says. “I always check the weather whenever I leave my apartment.”

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Behrend’s rain gardens enjoy successful summer growth period

Jonathan and Bridget Thompson

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

You’ve probably heard of rain gardens, but do you know what they are?

At Penn State Behrend, they are a significant part of the college’s best management practices for storm water efforts.

The college’s two rain gardens — one between Fasenmyer and Hammermill buildings, and one to the east of Nick, near College Drive — sit lower than the surrounding lawn and act as basins to catch and slowly absorb rain water, helping reduce potential flooding during storms and filtering pollutants from storm water runoff that would otherwise enter Four Mile Creek and, eventually, Lake Erie. Storm water runoff is considered one of the nation’s main sources of water pollution.

The rain gardens were planted in 2012 with a $36,495 Growing Greener grant from the Department of Environmental Protection awarded to Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology.

According to Quinn, the gardens have been cut back for the fall, but they grew well this past season. She attributed the successful growth in part to the compost, which is mixture of food waste from Dobbins Dining Hall and leaf matter from the wooded areas on campus, added to the gardens.

The gardens do more than just help with storm water runoff. They are also butterfly way stations and certified pollinator gardens. When choosing what to plant in the garden, Quinn said students researched native plants that fit the three zones — wet, moist, and dry — of a rain garden and also filled the criteria for pollinator and butterfly certifications.

Plants in the college’s rain gardens that are tolerant of standing water include cardinal flower, New England aster, several varieties of Joe Pye weed, swamp milkweed, and cinnamon fern.

Some plants in the garden thrive in areas that hold several inches of water during and immediately after a rain event, but is otherwise dry. Plants in these areas need to be draught tolerant, but also handle water well, too. Plants in the garden that fall into this category include black-eyed Susan, false sunflower, kobold, and summer sweet.

Quinn said that every plant in the garden grew beyond expectations.

“The Joe Pye weed spread well, and there are plans to transplant some of it to other wetland areas on campus,” she said. “The milkweed was a beautiful addition and a very important plant to include for Monarch butterflies, who migrate to the Erie area annually.”

If you missed the gardens this summer, don’t worry, they’ll be abloom again in the spring. And the bees and butterflies will be there to greet you!

Until then, here are some photos to enjoy:

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Behrend Reacts: What’s making you happy this week?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

 

Whether it’s a free t-shirt from Health and Wellness, a hard-earned A on an exam or simply the change in seasons, there’s plenty to smile about on campus this week.

So we asked Behrend students: What makes you happy?

 

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Jian Riccadonna, first-year student, Plastics Engineering Technology, from Cranberry: “I would have to say that I’m looking forward to the Penguin’s game this Saturday.”

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Rachel Frye, first-year student, Communication, from Pittsburgh: “Going home this weekend and spending time with my boyfriend.”

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Patryk Sperka, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “The weather. My brother and I climbed out onto my roof last night to hangout and it was perfect. There was a warm breeze. It was just blissful.”

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Julie Guidry, first-year student, Mechanical Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “I like the smell of the pine needles that have fallen off the trees. Just fall, in general, is making me happy.”

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Alexa Latshaw, sophomore, Biology, from Franklin: “I would have to say the weather. It’s been really nice and warm this week.”

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Kristen Collins, junior, Communication, from Wattsburgh: “The thing that makes me the happiest is just being able to spend time with my husband.”

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Robbi Kitelinger, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Tidioute: “The weather, hanging out with my boyfriend, and going home to see my sister soon.”

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Brittany Thomas, sophomore, Wildlife and Fisheries Science, from Bethel Park: “My Theta Phi Alpha sisters, especially my “Big”, Chelsea. I’ve had a rough couple of weeks and my sisters are always there to help.”

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Corey Flesik, sophomore, Industrial Engineering, from Pittsburgh: “Not having exams to study for this week makes me really happy.”

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Darliny Rivera, first-year student, Nursing, from New York: “Getting my nursing final over with, and just being here. I love Behrend.”

 

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: Who is your favorite professor?

BehrendReactslogolargeBy Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Author William A. Ward once said; “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

With so many dedicated professors on our campus, we asked Behrend students, who is their favorite and why?

Samantha

Samantha Raible, senior, Biology, from Pittsburgh: “I would have to say my favorite professor is Dr. Pam Silver, Professor of Biology. She was tough but always took the time to help students. She made things interesting enough to keep us awake at an 8:00 A.M class.”

Cat

Cat Hensley, first-year student, Geography, from Michigan: “Dr. Michael Naber, lecturer in geosciences. He’s easygoing, funny, and has Harry Potter glasses.”

Cassie

Cassie Peters, sophomore, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, from Erie: “I would say Ms. Luciana Aronne,  lecturer in chemistry. She is supportive, motivational and keeps class interesting.”

Ronnie

Ronnie Cox, sophomore, Physics, from Erie: “My favorite professor would have to be Mr. Adam Combs, lecturer in mathematics. He is not going to take it easy on you but will take the time to go over things you don’t understand.”

Lindsey

Lindsey Chase, first-year student, Kinesiology, from Randolph, N.Y: “Mr. Scott Rispin, lecturer in art. He makes things fun and interesting, and is very personable. You can tell he cares about his students.”

Pat

Pat Kress, sophomore, Finance, from Erie: “I would say my management professor, Dr. Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management. He is enthusiastic and relates concepts to college students well. He makes an 8:00 A.M class bearable.”

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Matthew Moreau, senior, Biology, from Massachusetts: “Dr. Michael Campbell, a professor of biology. He engages you and makes things interesting. If you pay attention in class, it’s really rewarding.”

Katie

Katie Powers, first-year student, Biology, from Clearfield: “I would say Mr. Scott Simpson, lecturer in chemistry. He’s young and you can tell he’s excited about teaching. He also does experiments every day which is really cool.”

Mary

Mary Bradley, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “My favorite professor is Dr. Angela Rood, lecturer in psychology.  She breaks the class down to make it easier to understand and does activities every day to keep things fun and interesting.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend Reacts: What makes you stand out?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

 

Junker Center was teeming with anticipation yesterday as over a thousand Behrend students flooded the athletic facility in hopes of meeting future employers.

Amidst the fervor and preparation, we asked Behrend students: What makes you stand out?

 

Joshua Fox

Joshua Fox, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Port Allegany: “I’m part of a Physics three plus two program, which means I’ll be earning a degree in Physics as well as Mechanical Engineering.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Domtar and Keystone Powdered Metal Company.”

 

MIchael Diana

Michael Diana, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Zelienople: “I’ve been working since I was 14 years old, so probably my experience and work ethic.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Keystone Powdered Metal Company and Cummins, Inc.”

 

Mia chies

Mia Chies, sophomore, Electrical Engineering, from Zelienople: “I think I stand out because I am a woman in engineering and there are few of us.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Aerotech and LORD Corporation.”

 

 Benn Baxter

Benn Baxter, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Port Allegany “I’ve been a contractor for about five years, I think it gives me a little more experience than others might have.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “LORD Corporation and John Deere.”

 

 Kayla Cochran

Kayla Cochran, senior, Psychology, from Meadville: “I’ve been really involved on campus. I’m a part of the Pennsylvania Aggression Reduction Center (P.A.R.C) where I work with Dr. Charisse Nixon, to train people in the community to become mentors for school-age children.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the Perseus House, and the Barber National Institute.”

 

Mitchell MIles

Mitchell Miles, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “My experience with software programs and the relationships I have with some of the business representatives.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “GE and LORD Corporation.”

 

Ryan Koch

Ryan Koch, sophomore, Project and Supply Chain Management and Management Information Systems, from Pittsburgh: “My commitment and experience. Also, I’ve job shadowed at a few of the companies.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “UPMC, U.S. Steel and Northrop Grumman.”

 

 Bret Henchar

Daniel Grim, senior, Software Engineering, from Greenville: “I’ve had three prior internships in the field and I’ve done a lot of research.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “U.S. Steel and Erie Insurance.”

 

Daniel Grim

Bret Henchar, senior, Software Engineering, from Zelienople: “I have experience with the software some of the companies use.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Northrop Grumman and Progressive Corporation.”

 

Andrew Link

Andrew Link, senior, Mechanical Engineering, from Erie: “My prior experience and the amount of research I’ve done on the companies I’m planning to talk to.”

What companies are you interested in speaking with today? “Aerotech, Parker Aerospace, and US Endoscopy.”

 

 

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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Behrend student Zach Knight strives to leave mark in music industry

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By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Zach Knight is a year away from graduation, but the Penn State Behrend student and aspiring musician is already putting his college education to good use.

Early last year, Knight, who previously majored in General Business and Project and Supply Chain Management, decided to make a change.

“I asked myself, ‘What applies to my life now? What relates to what I’m doing?’ Marketing just made sense,” says the Erie native, who began to seriously pursue a music career in 2011. “I feel as though the (marketing) program has helped me learn a lot about how to develop my career and further market myself.”

By all indications, Knight is doing a stellar job. His Twitter profile has over 7,100 followers while his Facebook profile has over 1,500 likes. He also was a nominee in the “Acoustics” genre at the 2014 Rock Erie Music Awards, and his first music video, “Christmas Without You,” was released last December.

Knight’s recent success is quite the juxtaposition from when he first began to record music. In early high school, he would use a microphone from the Rock Band video game to upload covers to YouTube. The method was unconventional but successful — YouTube users started requesting covers from Knight.

It continued to grow until Knight, whose style is combination of acoustic and R&B, decided to start writing his own music.

“I sat down and said, ‘I don’t want to be known for just doing covers,’” he says.

From there, Knight started working with producer Alan Dingfelder, lead vocalist of Erie-based band At That Moment, to record music. His first original song, “Out of This World,” was released in 2012 and had considerable success.

In fact, Abercrombie & Fitch signed a deal with him to have the song included in its November 2013 in-store playlist.

Though his parents, Barry and Kristen Knight, do not have musical backgrounds, they’ve been supportive and encouraging. His mother also helped spark Knight’s musical interest at seven years old when she purchased him a CD titled “The Promise” from the Christian boy band Plus One.

“I would just always sing that CD,” he recalls. “I would always try to make myself sound just like them.”

Since his music career took off, Knight has reached out to Plus One members, Nathan Walters and Gabe Combs, and he worked alongside them on an unreleased single. Knight’s first album is set to be released sometime next year.

Knight says he hopes to be signed to a major label, so he will have the opportunity to spread his art and also make a living doing what he loves. If not, he says he would like to use his marketing degree to continue to work in the music industry.

“I’d really like to work for a record label in some capacity,” Knight says. “If I can’t be the music, I’d like to be the guy behind the music.”

Catching up with Zach Knight

Hometown: Erie, Pa.

Family: Barry and Kristen (parents); Xavier (19-year-old brother); Mallory (15-year-old sister); Maddy (13-year-old sister)

Biggest musical influences: “I would say Nate Cole, Justin Timberlake and Cody Simpson. Justin Bieber is also an influence, but for his musical ability, not his lifestyle.”

Musical background: “Believe it or not, I actually cannot read music. It has not been a problem though because I know all of my chords, and I can read chords. I’m a self-taught guitar player, which I learned in sixth grade. I’m a self-taught drummer, too.”

Immediate goals: “My goal, right now, is to produce as much music as possible and grow. When I do that, I know good things will come out of it.”

Audience for music at Behrend: “The Behrend student body has been great. I notice that more and more Behrend students are following me on Twitter. I’ve also performed some concerts here, which has helped get the word out.”

Hobbies outside of music: “I really like hanging out with my friends. I also like longboarding and steelhead fishing.”

What it would mean to be signed: “It would mean the world to me. It’s something that I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember.”

Zach Knight’s first EP, titled “Out of This World,” is available on his official website.

Here is the video for “Christmas Without You,” which was released in December 2013.

Behrend Reacts: What is your favorite thing about fall?

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By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Famous for our foliage, Erie has become a mecca for autumn leaf lovers, as well as those in favor of cooler weather.

With greens quickly becoming golds, reds, and oranges, we asked Behrend students what their favorite part of the fall season is.

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Lakyn Hauptman, first-year student, Liberal Arts, from Titusville: “I like the colors of the leaves and the overall feeling of change. To me, fall is about happiness, being thankful, and spending time with your family.”

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Shkurte Latifi, senior, Communication, from Kosovo: “Boots! You can wear anything with them.”

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Rachel Frye, first-year student, Communication, from Pittsburgh: “Definitely the clothing. It’s cold enough to wear longer sleeves but warm enough that you don’t have to bundle up completely.”

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Danielle Lee, first-year student, Childhood and Early Adolescent Education, from Erie: “My favorite thing about fall is the crisp air and my birthday in October.”

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Molly Beth Black, Communication, Junior, from Oil City: “The weather is typically comfortable and the leaves are gorgeous, especially here at Behrend.”

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Reagan Campbell, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Washington, D.C: “Bigger fashion catalogs! It’s not too hot or too cold so you can get away with wearing whatever you’d like. And the changing leaves, of course.”

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Brian Boyd, sophomore, Sports Medicine, from Pittsburgh: “My favorite part about fall is the trees, especially around here. The scenery is really nice.”

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Dan Kozubal, sophomore, Chemical Engineering, from Saegertown: “Definitely archery season. It’s a stress relief at the end of the week to go home, get up in a stand, and shoot my bow.

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Lauren Blachowski, sophomore, Biology, from Philadelphia: “I love everything about fall! My favorite part is probably pumpkin picking and just being with my family.”

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Burhaan Farah, sophomore, Electrical Engineering, from the Dominican Republic: “Where I come from, the weather is always very humid and hot. It cools down a lot in fall though, from early September to late November is perfect.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Nicole Krahe at ndk5089@psu.edu.

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