Omar Kamal Ali is attending Sitka High School this year as one of several exchange students through the AFS program. For International Education Week, he sat down with his local liaison Peter Apathy to talk about his home in Egypt. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Sitka hosts several students every year through the AFS program. One of them is 17-year-old Omar Kamal Ali. He’s an exchange student from Egypt, born in Alexandria and currently living in Cairo. His parents were born in villages in the Nile Delta. For International Education Week (11/13/17 – 11/17/17), Omar sat down with his local liaison Peter Apathy to talk about his home thousands of miles away and the one’s he’s fostering here in Sitka.

Downloadable audio.

Peter: So tell me about some traditions in your family. What traditions have been passed down in your family?

Omar: In the beginning of Ramadan on the first day, we start taking the first breakfast of Ramadan all together. In these situations, it was a huge number of people all together. All of us eat on the ground. Grape leaves – we have that, roasted with some rice. The whole family comes in. I like to see my Aunts and the kids of them. There are so many cute little kids.

Omar Kamal Ali (pictured left) with his father, mother, and uncle at a wedding in his home country of Egypt. (Photo courtesy of Omar)

Peter: I know one thing I enjoy out of you is that you know you want to get as much as you can out of this experience.  You’ve said that. That’s not the case with many people who come here, but you want to use every minute that you have here to experience something. It doesn’t really matter what it is. You just want to experience something! And that’s something I enjoy about you.

Omar: Thank you.

Peter: So what does your future hold? What do you see for yourself in the future?

Omar: If I have a chance to travel, it’s going to be here in Sitka. I have a lot of family here – like a lot of friends, which I call family. So it will be easy for me to get here and to get into college here, easier than if I want to get into any place else. Actually, I want to be a mechanical engineer or aviation engineer.

Peter: Do you see yourself with a family? Having your own family?

Omar: I’m too young to think about that right now! Still have a lot of things to do before that. So, what is a piece of advice you wish someone told you when you were my age?

Peter: When they say time goes fast, you need to believe that. Even if you think it’s not going to go fast, it does. Travel more. Spend time to get to know people. I need to remember to include you in things that I do. I need to remember to call you and say, “Hey, we’re going to do this. Why don’t you come with us?” Or, I’m going to call you at two in the morning if there are northern lights out because I know you want to see that.

Omar: Yeah! When I traveled to Skagway, I saw snow and I made a snowball and had a snow fight (laughs) Yeah, I’m actually so excited to see the Northern lights.