A window to the Middle East
The day after Zackeraya Elmarzouky moved to the United States from Egypt nearly two years ago, he started his first day as a freshman at Alvernia University. His transition to American culture and campus life at Alvernia has been seamless, thanks in large part to his diligence, activity on campus and ability to prioritize.
“I am very involved on campus, which has made me feel like I have a voice at Alvernia,” he says. “In the process, I have gotten to know a lot of wonderful people, and I’m having a fun time.”
An Egyptian in America
While Elmarzouky was growing up in Egypt, his father was living in Reading, Pa running his restaurants — Queen City, Wyomissing Family Restaurant, and Heidelberg Family Restaurant. Elmarzouky spent his summers visiting his father in the United States.
This spring, Elmarzouky gave a presentation to students and faculty on Alvernia’s campus, in hopes of bringing a new viewpoint on Middle Eastern cuisine and culture.
“I wanted people to see a Muslim perspective from a Muslim, and an American perspective from an American Muslim,” he says, noting that a lot of what Americans hear about Muslims comes from non-Muslim Americans who are too quick to judge the religion and the country of Egypt.
“For example, many Americans think of Egypt as a dangerous country, but before the revolution, Egypt was completely peaceful — safer than it is here. There is a lot of misconception, and I wanted to help people better understand,” he says. “Overall, people enjoyed the presentation, and I think everyone walked away knowing something they didn’t know before.”
Elmarzouky hopes to continue to bridge the gap between Middle Eastern and American culture with his future career; he is majoring in criminal justice and plans to become an English/Arabic translator for a federal organization.
An inherited passion for Alvernia
In addition to his father’s zeal for food, Elmarzouky inherited his passion for Alvernia University. His father, Sayed Elmarzouky, is a member of Alvernia’s board of trustees.
The younger Elmarzouky serves Alvernia’s campus as a Student Government Association (SGA) representative for the Black Student union/Ethnic Awareness Society, and he will be a resident assistant on campus next semester.
During an Alternative Break spring break trip this semester to Washington, D.C., Elmarzouky and fellow students volunteered in soup kitchens and food banks. “We all had to live off of food stamps for the week to see what that is like; it was a good experience for all of us,” he says.
Elmarzouky’s advice for students who aspire to accomplish what he has in their college years: “Volunteer a lot, and get involved. It’s important for your resume, but it will really get you connected.”