While spending a semester at sea, UK student meets globetrotting professors


ahmed deif.jpg

Akhira Umar

SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN — On Semester at Sea, a program that gives its voyagers the opportunity to explore and interact with different countries and cultures, there is a professor who truly knows the meaning of this immersive experience.

Ahmed Deif is one of many international professors on the fall 2019 voyage. Born and raised in an Islamic household in Egypt, Deif has come a long way from home. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in his home country, he continued his academic career in Canada, earning a Ph. D. in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering. Five years ago, he and his family moved to the United States for his teaching position at California Polytechnic State University. At the university Deif is an associate professor of industrial technology in the College of Business and is part of the International Program Committee.

It was three years ago at Cal Poly that Deif first heard about SAS, but it wasn’t until last year that Cal Poly became part of the SAS staff, allowing Deif to apply. Since he’s always looking for opportunities to teach abroad and connect with international students, Deif jumped at the chance to join. This enthusiasm for seeing the world lies within his own life story.

“My life is a mix between Egypt, Canada and the States,” Deif said. “I feel that I’m privileged to be at that intersection between the East and the West and living in different continents, different countries, different cultures. As much as this is a challenge, I look at a very positive side of it, that it really enriched me a lot in terms of how I understand people and include people in my life.”

By the end of the voyage, Deif will have visited a total of 74 countries at just 42 years old. He said part of what fuels him and his travels is his love of history. Before reaching a new country, he makes sure to research its past. His advice is to learn the country’s history in order to understand the country’s current state.

Another drive for Deif is his “huge youth energy.” When he’s not teaching supply chain management, introduction to entrepreneurship or introduction to management on the ship, he spends his time being as active as he can. At sea one can find him in the gym or playing ping pong while in port he’ll be hiking, diving or bouncing around to other neighboring countries.

There’s hardly a time on this voyage when Deif can’t be found full of vigor, full of wisdom or full of reflection. This is just as exciting a time for him as it is for students, and that’s something he hopes everyone takes away from this voyage. The advice he leaves is the same principle he lives by:

“Make sure you taste the beauty of knowledge.”

Akhira Umar is a UK journalism student and former Kernel lifestyle editor who is currently on a Semester at Sea