Student Profile: Going Back to Grad School After 30

Student Profile: Going Back to Grad School After 30

Going back to grad school is a big decision for anyone to make, but it’s especially difficult after 30, once you’ve been out of school and have been in the workforce for a number of years. Deciding to leave an established career, uprooting your life (and maybe even your family’s life) and taking on student debt is a big commitment to make.

Every year in the Master of Digital Media program we have students who choose to leave their established careers to pursue a career in digital media. We also have students who have decided to pause their careers for a year to upgrade their skills.

Kareem Negm is one of these students. Kareem started the MDM program in September 2012, leaving his 10+ year career as a Senior Architect in Dubai to move to Vancouver and take the MDM program. Before coming to the program, he worked on multimillion dollar projects in Dubai and internationally. He’s also a photographer and shot the cover of Middle East Architect Magazine twice in 2009.

This is what Kareem had to say about making the decision to go back to graduate school.

Kareem Accepting His Award at the Ungraduation Ceremony

August 2013

So a year ago today arrived in Vancouver for the first time. I was feeling lonely, apprehensive and tired. Having been accepted to the then-intimidating MDM program, I had quit my job in Dubai, sold my car, sold my furniture, said bye to family and friends, and leaped into this uncertain future that was a big detour from the career path I had been treading for years. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by brilliant and talented individuals from around the world who were not only younger, but perhaps more fitting for this school than I was. I had no other choice but to try and "keep calm and carry on."

Fast forward one year…we just had our 'unofficial' graduation ceremony because we're practically done with our degrees (minus our internships). In an Oscars-like award show we had as part of the ceremony, I won Best Dressed Male, Most Fit Male, and the person with the Best Work/Life Balance (hence the ear-to-ear grin in the picture). I was also voted Most Moody but that didn't bother me much having won the first 3 (plus I'm Egyptian, my people toppled two regimes in 2 years…we're moody). And contrary to popular belief, I didn't rig the votes (I guess again they assumed I would because I'm Egyptian) and only had my heart set on Most Fit. I must admit, the other 2 awards were a pleasant surprise because my fellow nominees are equally entitled—if not more—to these awards. I managed to accomplish all of this with a GPA of 4.02 (to be exact) in a field that I knew nothing about last summer, and after leaving formal education 10 years ago.

Family and friends repeatedly ask me if it was worth it. And here comes the moral of the story (if you haven’t guessed already) YES it was. If any of you are experiencing a quarter-life crisis, suffering from the "7-year itch" or just need a change in your life: 

Go for it. Change is good.

This has been by far the best decision of my adult life. I don't know what I'll do next but I do know that the experiences I had here, and the people I met, are unforgettable.

Kareem is currently working on an internship exploring potential  ‘Smart City’ technologies to be implemented in Vancouver. He’s collaborating with researchers from UBC’s MAGIC Lab (Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre) on developing a student-engagement project that addresses energy awareness, conservation behaviors, and crowd-sourced data for teenagers. The project will be a participatory challenge that is built around self-reporting, gamification and microtransactions on mobile and web platforms.