In Sirte, an average-sized, modern city in Libya, Benmadi Milad spent his childhood days watching oilfield trucks and exploration equipment pass by through the streets of his hometown. His curiosity led him to start reading books about petroleum engineering and by 8th grade, he knew for certain what he wanted to be when he grew up. Fast forward to 2016, and you can now find Benmadi pursuing a Ph.D. in Petroleum Geology at OU, but his journey was not met without challenges. As if learning a new language and integrating into American culture was not trying enough, Benmadi’s home country of Libya was in a civil war.
Benmadi came to the Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) at OU in July of 2010 and ended his studies in August 2011. In just over a year, Benmadi was able to improve his English skills enough so that he could enter directly into the Petroleum Engineering Master’s Degree program at OU. This daunting task is an uphill battle for any student, but Benmadi accomplished it amidst a turbulent civil war brewing in his country, which eventually came into fruition in February 2011.
Benamdi may have been physically safe from the ravages of war while studying here in the United States but constant worry plagued him about what was occurring to his family back home. While Benmadi says that he was fortunate enough to come over here on a scholarship from the Libyan Government during the Gaddafi regime and have the opportunity to study in America, he says it was often stressful for him. “I had very excellent days and I had very bad days,” Benmadi said. “I remember having so much pressure on me. Not only did I have to keep my grades up to maintain my scholarship, but I also had to pass the TOEFL exam and the GRE so I could continue my studies and keep my visa status. I had a timeline to follow, and I knew if I didn’t meet the requirements, I would lose not only my scholarship but so much more. It was a lot of stress on me.”
Benmadi persevered despite the setbacks he experienced.
“I remember preparing as much as I could for the TOEFL exam and studying very hard,” he said. “The first time that I didn’t pass I was disappointed, but the second time I didn’t pass I was very discouraged. During this time, my country was at war also. I was very worried about my country and my family back home that I didn’t get to speak to for 3 months, and this only made things harder for me. Without the support of Donna, Cory and other faculty at CESL, I don’t know where I would be. That was a very big deal to me to have their encouragement, and it is something I will never forget.”
Upon graduating from his Ph.D. program, Benmadi hopes to first work for a petroleum company that enables him to apply the knowledge he has gained during his academic career and then eventually make his way back to academia and teach one day.
“I really enjoy the education environment and it would be nice to share my skills and experience with students,” said Benmadi.
When asked what he would like to share with current CESL students, he replied, “Take every single opportunity to do whatever the teachers ask of you, especially in grammar and writing. Once you move on to main campus or transfer to a university, you will have many demands such as reports, presentations, critiques, etc. This is why it’s so important to focus on your studies now because that is what will benefit you the most once you leave CESL.”
“Also, once you get to main campus,” Benmadi continues, “do not forget CESL. Stop by and say hello from time to time…everyone there will appreciate it.”
Benmadi may have endured many obstacles that would have distracted him from his dream, but he stayed determined and his hard work is paying off. “The way I stay inspired is that I always remember that if you have a goal and want to achieve it, you can, whether you have challenges or not. Every goal will always have its challenges and those challenges will just make you stronger,” explains Benamdi.
“I achieved my dream, which was to acquire English language skills,” Benmadi said. “CESL helped me achieve my dreams and I will always be thankful for that.”
Learn more about the intensive english program at the Center for English as a Second Language.