Creating Community Brings Comfort to International Student
For many students, starting a first semester at Chico State means moving away from family and friends for the first time. Loved ones can be a few hours away in the Bay Area or even further away in Southern California. But for international students like Jasem Alhumaidi, coming to Chico can mean moving half a world away.
Born and raised in Kuwait, the civil engineering major easily found familiarity at his new college home. He admits it may have been a little easier for him than most international students—he followed in the footsteps of three Wildcat siblings, including his sister Ghadeer Alhumaidi (Civil Engineering, ’16), who became a de facto mentor as she wrapped up her undergraduate studies at the same time his commenced.
As the graduating senior talks fondly of his siblings and parents, it is apparent that family plays a pivotal role in his life. It’s no wonder, then, that Jasem and his sister were drawn to civil engineering. As they grew up, their father owned two civil engineering firms in Kuwait. Jasem described how his fascination with the structural side of civil engineering developed as a child, first building intricate forts to play in, then following his father along on job sites for major projects like skyscrapers. He now proudly details how he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“My dream is to walk along with my own children, pointing to every building on the left and every building on the right and letting them know that is my work,” Alhumaidi said, smiling at the vision in his head.
After Ghadeer graduated two years ago, Jasem found himself at a turning point. No longer did he have the close connection to family and home built in. He found he needed to make other connections and experience new aspects of Chico State.
“My first few semesters, I was very focused on my studies,” said Alhumaidi. “When my sister left, I started reaching out to other students, and I found that clubs were a great way to do that.”
Knowing he wanted to do something hands-on, he joined the Concrete Canoe Club. That gave him a taste of teamwork and the opportunity to apply what he had learned in his coursework, and he subsequently joined the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student chapter, taking on the role of membership officer.
His eagerness to work collaboratively with his peers eventually led Alhumaidi to serve as president of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society that includes the top academically performing students studying civil, mechanical, mechatronic, electrical, and computer engineering. There, he worked with the officer team to reinvigorate the chapter’s participation and grow enthusiasm across the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management (ECC) through a full calendar of events that featured monthly activities like bowling, barbeques, and game nights.
Last fall, Alhumaidi spearheaded a Halloween social for all ECC students. He pulled in a dozen student clubs from across the college to host a dunk tank, barbeque, and games. More than 200 students attended the social, and it is expected to become a new Chico State tradition.
“I’m happy the Halloween event was a success,” said Alhumaidi. “The fact that it will continue for years to come makes me feel like I put my fingerprint on Chico State.”
Whether in civil engineering classes, club activities, or community service, Alhumaidi has relied on the mentorship of many civil engineering faculty. One person in particular has made a tremendous impact—Tau Beta Pi advisor Ken Derucher.
“Dr. D has always been very generous with his time and knowledge. For me, he is what makes civil engineering at Chico,” Alhumaidi said.
The professional admiration is mutual.
“Jasem is a leader who is extremely positive, proactive and dedicated,” said Derucher. “He is a person who gets the job done in an excellent professional manner. I’m sure he will succeed in his dream to be a structural engineer, and I believe we will eventually see him in academia.”
With commencement rapidly approaching, Alhumaidi has his eyes set on his next chapter: graduate school. He plans to remain in the United States to continue his education in civil engineering with an emphasis in structural analysis and design. Eventually, he would like to own his own engineering firm in Kuwait managing major projects like hospitals, hotels, and high rises.
Yet, he can’t leave the family he made in Chico behind just yet. While his coursework is complete, he will stay for one more semester to ensure that the tutoring program he has launched for fellow students is thriving.
Looking back on his time at Chico State, Alhumaidi has some advice for students, especially international students, looking to feel connected in the campus community.
“Take a little time to establish yourself, feeling comfortable in the town and in classes, and then get involved,” Alhumaidi said. “During class, talk to the person to the left and right. A five-minute conversation might just lead to a lifelong friendship.”