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Student organization hopes to bring together Egyptians, teach others about culture

Eman Eltobgy hands out ice cream at the student organization’s first event of the year on Sept. 13. Credit: Momina Tashfeen | For the Lantern

Two Ohio State students had a dream to unite their fellow Egyptians, American-Egyptians and those interested in the Egyptian culture on campus. In the beginning of fall semester, that dream came true.

Eman Eltobgy, a third-year in political science, and Mahmoud Abouzahra, a third-year in electrical engineering, co-founded the Egyptian Student Association.

The student organization aims to celebrate Egyptian culture, roots and history. Events it plans to host will vary between activism, community engagement and social events, Eltobgy said.

Eltobgy, an American with Egyptian roots, said the club stood on its own after those interested in the club contributed to the start-up, whether it was searching for an advisor or spreading the word to the Egyptian population on campus.

Eltobgy said there is not a large Egyptian undergraduate population on campus, but she noticed a significant number of graduate students at the meetings.

“When there was an announcement that ESA was formed, everyone kind of just came together in both support and attendance,” Eltobgy said.

Abouzahra also said he wanted a way for students to come together to celebrate Egyptian culture.

“I wanted a place for Egyptians to come together and be able to communicate. Especially if someone is coming from Egypt and they don’t have anyone to talk to and are going through a cultural shock,” Abouzahra said. “That’s one of the reasons we started this club.”

The Egyptian co-presidents said they stress their mission statement of creating a home environment that isn’t necessarily specific to Egyptians, but rather to all who care to have a good time. It’s all about creating a harmonious balance between an educational and social organization, they said.

Eltobgy said how crucial the balance is to the longevity of the club and how it can be what makes or breaks a club in the long run.

Eltobgy and Abouzahra said they went in knowing they would be working arguably harder than other co-presidents considering their newly established status. However, they said they expected the heavy workload and welcomed it.

“We faced a lot of challenges while creating this, but we always pushed through. And no matter what, we’re going to keep pushing to grow this organization more and more,” Abouzahra said.

ESA held its first event, “Ice Cream and Zalabia Social,” on Sept. 13.Zalabia is an Egyptian dessert covered in syrup and can be served either hot or cold.

Abouzahra said It doesn’t take a special occasion to serve zalabia, and it’s the perfect summer dessert.

At the events , there was a mix of participants including undergraduate and graduate students, Egyptians and non-Egyptians, all gathering to enjoy ice cream, zalabia and Egyptian music, Abouzahra said.

“I’m Egyptian and coming to this event makes me feel at home. I’m very excited,” said Deena Issa, a graduate student pursuing a doctorate in chemical physics.

Despite being new to Ohio State and ESA, Issa said she would go to other events hosted by the Egyptian Student Association in the future.

Eltobgy and Abouzahra said they hope the club will encourage diversity and hope that all feel welcome.

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