Walid Bouabid and Said Ouabi working on the subway site in Qatar.
The two students, Walid Bouabid and Said Ouabi, worked on the foundation of the new subway system, which when completed will be one of the most modern transit systems in the world.
The Louis Berger Group, Inc. an international consulting firm, funds a graduate internship and fellowship program at NJIT that sponsored Walid and Said. This was the inaugural year for the program, which supports NJIT students doing masters’ degrees in engineering or architecture fields: Walid and Said are doing their master’s in civil engineering. Both said the work they did in Doha, Qatar, was immensely rewarding, and that they are grateful to have received the internships established by the Louis Berger Group.
“We worked on one of the world’s major transportation projects,” said Walid. “It was as if we were building the New York City subway system from scratch. The work was exciting and we’re grateful to the Louis Berger Group for funding the internships, which covered our travel and living costs and paid part of our tuition. The internship was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Walid and Said gave a presentation about their internships on Nov. 3 in the Campus Center Atrium. The presentation was hosted by the Graduate Studies Office and Career Development Services, the two NJIT offices that helped select and support the two interns. Officials from the Louis Berger Group also were on hand to answer questions about the company’s national and international projects as well as to explain how NJIT students can apply for the graduate internship and fellowship program.
Walid and Said spent the first six weeks of their internships working in the on-site office, reviewing design drawings. But for the second six weeks they got out of the office and worked as field inspectors, helping to ensure that the workers in the field followed specifications.
“It was a huge work site with about 700 workers and engineers from all over world,” said Walid. “We had the drawings and made sure they matched the work being done on-site. It was a really great experience.”
When Walid first arrived in Qatar it seemed like the entire country was under construction, he said, with new high-rise buildings and hotels emerging in the skyline. The dominant image in the country appeared to be tall tower cranes. The two stayed in a hotel near to the subway site and made friends from different nations. Walid speaks Arabic but said he rarely used it since the lingua franca in Qatar was English.
Walid grew up in Marrakesh, Morocco, and began his studies at a technological university there. He came to America when he was 21 for a better education and economic opportunity. He didn’t speak English well, so he worked for two years in retail stores such as Walmart and Rite Aid. He later enrolled in Hudson County Community College and earned an associate degree, after which he transferred to NJIT. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 2014. He then enrolled in the master’s in civil engineering program. He worked during the day for a software solutions engineering firm and took mostly evening classes.
When he heard about the Louis Berger internship, he applied for it and was accepted. The internship couldn’t have come at a better time for Walid, since this is his last semester at NJIT and he now knows what he wants to do after he graduates.
“Before my internship I thought I’d work in the field of software solutions for civil engineers,” he said. “But having worked in Qatar, I’m now more interested in construction and construction engineering. I’d like to return to Qatar and continue to work on this project for Louis Berger. The company treated us so well and both of us loved the work.”
Said was also born in Morocco. He came to America when he was 20 and also studied at Hudson County Community College. He transferred to Rutgers University and received his bachelor’s in civil engineering in 2012. He worked for a local construction company for two years and then enrolled in the master’s degree program in civil engineering at NJIT. He also applied for and was awarded the Louis Berger internship and fellowship.
The most challenging aspect of working in Qatar, said Said, was the heat. During the day, temperatures would soar to 122 degrees. It was so hot that he and Walid often did their field work in the evenings, when temperatures dropped below 100. It was difficult at first, he said, but after a few days his body adapted to the infernal heat. Qatar was given the World Cup 2022 under the condition that it build a subway system, he said, and he enjoyed working on the site.
“I was so lucky to be awarded this internship,” said Said. “The project was enormous and taught me to work with hundreds of workers of all types and from all countries. I’m grateful and thankful to Louis Berger for this opportunity. And I’d encourage NJIT graduate students to apply for the internships. To live and work in a foreign country was not only educational but it was a great experience.”
By Robert Florida (firstname.lastname@example.org)