Rogers State University International Student Reflects on Road towards Graduation

girl standing by small lake

For many, the journey to a college education can be a long, and often demanding one.

But for Rogers State University senior Fawzieh Hamdar, her journey was longer than most – more than 6,500 miles long, to be exact – the distance from Lebanon to Claremore, Oklahoma.

This spring, Hamdar will be one of RSU’s international students slated to receive her diploma, an accomplishment that will be earned after numerous personal and financial setbacks, all of which she met with determination and resolve.

“I started out (college) studying pharmacy at the Lebanese International University (in Beirut),” Hamdar began, “but things were very bad over there, very bad. There was the revolution, the economic crisis, COVID-19, and the earthquake. Things were not supportive or encouraging for me there. My parents told me that I should go somewhere that accepts me and supports me at the same time, so I came to America, to Claremore to study at Rogers State University.”

Hamdar had applied to RSU in 2021, but as she didn’t have her VISA yet, was unable to attend until the fall 2022 semester, when she began study for her degree in molecular biology.

“Overall, my time here has been incredible, but in the beginning, things were a little awkward. It’s a different country, it’s a different culture. It took some time to get to things, and there were definitely some obstacles,” she said.

Among the initial challenges Hamdar faced were preconceptions about her based on her appearance and her beliefs.

“When I first came here, I would often eat by myself at the dining hall because people weren’t sure about me. As a Hijabi Muslim girl, people who don’t know you aren’t sure what to think about you,” she said. “I ran into some of that before I came to America, when I was a clinical pharmacist back home, working outside of Lebanon.

“It wasn’t that bad here, but it did take people some time to get to know me,” she continued. “Once they did, once I started going to class, going to events, and introducing myself to my classmates and my teachers, they understood that, yes, we can be good and nice people just like everyone else.

“Now, I have many friends – many friends – and I don’t have to eat by myself when I’m at the dining hall,” she said.

Hamdar doesn’t belong to any student organizations but chooses to focus primarily on her studies, fully aware of the sacrifices and generosity that made her education at RSU possible.

“My father worked for the (Lebanese) government, which declared bankruptcy, so it was very hard for him financially,” she said. “He wanted me to get my education though because it was what I wanted. He’s my biggest supporter, to the point that I know he dismisses his own health, happiness and needs to help me. At one point, he even sold his car to help fund my college education.”

In addition to the financial and national challenges she faced before coming to America, Hamdar also faced a serious health crisis, but dealt with it as she deals with everything – with determination and a positive outlook.

“It’s a mindset thing. I have a positive mindset, and I got so much of that from my dad. He’s my idol,” she said. “The moment he showed that he trusted me to go to another country to get my education, I knew I could. He told me to take risks and to know that if I ever fell, he would catch me. He always has, and in some ways, so has RSU, helping to support me with Foundation scholarships.”

After she graduates, Hamdar said she plans to take some time off to work and earn her own money and pay her own way, but she hopes to later return to college to further her education.

“I’d like to eventually get a PhD in cancer biology and become a cancer researcher,” she said. “I want to work to help people find a solution to cure cancer, and if I’m not able to find it, I want to teach others, to encourage and inspire them to find a cure.”

Although she knows – indeed, expects – there to be more obstacles ahead of her in life, Hamdar said she will meet whatever challenges lay ahead of her.

“My dad always said that obstacles are like small stones that are in your path, and whenever I encounter them, to just use them as stepping stones to help me get to the top, to reach where I’m meant to be,” she said.

Rogers State University’s spring 2023 commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 13, at the Claremore Expo Center. School of Professional Studies degrees will be conferred beginning at 10 a.m. and School of Arts and Sciences, Cameron University, Honors and PLC degrees will be conferred beginning at 1:30 p.m.

For more information about Rogers State University’s international student program, visit