Undergraduate from Egypt working on her second journalism degree, this time in English

Ola Elshaar_photo (2)

By Monica Levitan

Originally from Cairo, Egypt, this isn’t freshman Ola Elshaar’s first rodeo studying journalism. Elshaar, 24, earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Akhbar El-Yom Academy and was a journalist for the Egyptian feminist magazine, Muskurahat, for two and a half years.

Elshaar moved to America in search of more opportunity after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, leaving some of her family behind.

“There was a special treatment for me [flying to the U.S.], because I’m a Hijabi, maybe. I was wearing the scarves, the traditional wrap…it was a special treatment that I didn’t appreciate,” said Elshaar.

Elshaar is one of four siblings, the others being her sister Selma, 27, a flight attendant for Qatar Airways, and two brothers Mahmoud, 21, and Mostafa, 19.

Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t qualify for any of the journalism jobs in the U.S. with her degree from the Academy. She originally wanted to go to Virginia Tech, but decided Radford was a better fit for her.

“There’s not a big difference between the journalism there and the journalism here, the only thing is the language,” she said. “Here in Radford they didn’t take any transfer credits because I did my degree in Arabic, so I have to take the whole four years again.”

Elshaar said her mother encouraged her and Selma to always “work really hard for what we want” and “to find jobs, do whatever we want, to not care whatever people say”.

Instead of living on campus like the usual transfer/freshman student, Elshaar commutes from Christiansburg where she lives with her husband, Mostafa, who works as a manufacturing engineer at the mall in Blacksburg.

Their marriage isn’t like the average one we’re used to seeing or hearing about in the U.S. They actually have two marriages, one an Islamic marriage contract called “Katbktab”, where she says “you’re not allowed to do too many things,” referring to the level of public display of affection. But, “the second one is just a normal marriage where you’re allowed to do anything and do whatever you want.”

When she’s not in class, Elshaar works as a cashier at Target in Christiansburg and is an Insights writer for The Tartan on campus.

She also said that in her free time she loves to read, write and is a very social person.

Elshaar does seem to leave an everlasting impression on people, like junior Brittany Reynolds, who met her this past summer, and considers her one of her close friends.

“I’ve loved everything about her since the day we met! She is and has a beautiful soul and the personality to match,” said Reynolds.

After she graduates, Elshaar thinks, “I’m going to live between the two countries because…my husband has been here for more than 10 years, so I think I have to stay here because he’s American-Egyptian.” They also have some family nearby which is nice to have whenever they may be feeling homesick.

Dec 5, 2017
School of Communication