Starting a new segment for the Oppy, “A Sternie’s Journey” focuses on new students, and the diverse and distinct reasons for joining us here in the NYU Stern community. This month, our focus is on Abdullah Mahhaden.
Obviously the Spring 2020 semester has been a wild one, especially to be starting the Part-time MBA Langone program, and on top of that add the responsibilities of having a wife and child. Abdullah is a financial auditor at Credit Suisse and a proud Blue Block member. He is a busy man, even in quarantine. I had the pleasure of meeting Abdullah on the Langone Winter Getaway, and from the moment I met him on our bus ride, I knew this was a man of compassion and grace. I (virtually) sat down with Abdullah to learn more.
Where are you from?
What brought you to New York?
Although I was born in Brooklyn, my parents moved back to Jordan when I was only 3. My wife, Aya, and I decided about three years ago to move to NY. There is just something about this city that attracts people from all over the world. It’s super diverse, has the best food, and you’re constantly meeting people who one day might change the world.
What brought you to Stern?
I came to Stern seeking the best version of myself, through learning from the smartest professors and best students in New York. Best part time program, greatest network in NY, and only 10 minutes ride from my work. I only applied to Stern because this is where I wanted to be!
Wow, it sounds like you might have a future in marketing with a response like that.
Did anything worry you about starting grad school?
Like most (Langone) students, I have a full-time job. I’m also married. Aya works a full-time job as well, and we have a 5-year-old, Mohammad (Aka Hamedo), who has enough energy to power New York! So, juggling between all of that was my biggest concern. I’m getting better and better at this juggling as time goes by.
How did your child influence your decision to come to Stern?
Hamedo made me doubt it a little bit because I love spending as much time as I can with him, but I also wanted to be the best version of myself and embark on this adventure so I would tell him about it one day. Now he’s super excited we both go to school!
How do you balance the responsibilities of work, school, and parenting?
It’s a constant act of juggling. I’m always checking the time to make sure I’m not missing anything. And most importantly, I try to be 100% in the current moment.
So forget grad school for a second, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a parent?
Keep asking questions, stay curious, and be fearless. These are stuff I learn from Hamdeo every single day.
What’s your favorite thing to do with your son?
Climbing. We saw him climbing stuff left and right. At first we thought all kids do it, but then we noticed he’s taking it to the next level: trees, rocks at Central Park, fences, you name it. So, we start taking him every week to Brooklyn Boulders in LIC and he climbs better than I ever did or will do! People there are very impressed with him. That’s my favorite activity with him.
What’s your favorite thing you have taught your son?
How to whistle; took us a very long time but when he learned it, he was so proud he did it.
What’s your favorite thing your son has taught you?
Apparently, Pluto is not a planet anymore.
But really, who are we to tell Pluto it’s not a planet? Kinda feels like we’re telling Rihanna she’s not Beyonce. #teamPluto
What’s been the biggest challenge of parenting during this virus crisis?
Explaining why we would push back his birthday in April this year. Hamedo takes his birthday super seriously and has a long wish list. Needless to say, the list is getting longer everyday.
That makes my heart hurt.
How are you handling self-isolation, wfh, etc.?
As you can see from the pic with Hamedo, I’m barely surviving! Sometimes, it feels I’m living in the office as opposed to wfh. It’s way more difficult to time manage this way. I can’t play sports, I can’t watch sports, I can’t go to the gym, and I sure can’t read with Hamedo using our apartment as a bounce house! The silver lining is that I’m spending more time with my family and we’re eating all meals together for a change.
How are you staying sane?
I keep telling myself this is temporary and we’re already planning a nice vacation when this whole thing is over. Last vacation was in Egypt and it was great. Having this futuristic look is very important during these crazy days.
What is the first thing you will do when this nonsense is over?
I’m starting to look like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. First thing would definitely be a visit to my barber.
What’s been your favorite part about the program?
I really like the Orientation we had when we first started, especially the “share an object” exercise. It was great to see how diverse and smart the group was, and although it was 12 hours+ tiring day, it was still super fun.
Favorite event at Stern so far?
Must be the Winter Getaway (aka Ski Trip). Only seven people came who had just started Stern in February, but it was awesome! I had a chance to meet a lot of great people, who have been in Stern longer than I have. I also meaningfully connected with people that I know I will still be hanging out with for a long time after I finish the program. We were so lucky we were able to pull this one off before sheltering.
What excites you?
Passionate people. Even if I don’t share their passion, I always find their passion contagious and exciting!
What scares you?
At this point in time, what really scares me is healthcare workers not getting the support they need to protect themselves and be the superheroes they are.
Amen to that.
Favorite musician, artist, or band?
Ludovico Einaudi is an Italian pianist that I listen to his music almost every day to relax.
Favorite date spot?
Broadway Show for sure – always a magical experience. What could be better than being in a theater as part of a live audience and watching talented individuals sing and act out a beautiful story? Last one we went to see was “Dear Evan Hansen” and we loved it!
What’s the first 1st song you want to party to when the quarantine is lifted?
Must be “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi. I need to get back the energy in running.
Favorite karaoke song?
Although I only started doing Karaoke about two years ago, I find it super fun and go frequently with my co-workers and friends. I’m a big Eminem fan and my favorite Karaoke song is “Love the Way You Lie;” a good Rihanna is pivotal for the performance though.
Favorite book? Or your favorite book you’ve read recently?
Very hard to choose only one so I’m going to list a few. I’m a big fan of George Orwell, so 1984 and Animal Farm are on top of the list. The Iron Heel, by Jack London, is a great novel as well. In economics, I really enjoyed Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. In sports, I haven’t read anything like Eduardo Galeano’s Football in Sun and Shadow.
What do you want to do after graduating?
Part of the great Stern experience is that you might start with specific plans and end up with completely different ones! And that’s ok. I’m learning every single day and I plan to get the most from the great professors and students I’ll be meeting.
Well said. Everything is bound to feel pretty up in the air right now, but it’s important to make the most of every moment we have. Hamedo’s a great professor for that. I’m just gonna keep bumping Rihanna and making my large plutonion orbit of this life. Thanks Abdullah, best of luck!
If you would like to nominate a classmate for future features of the Stern Spotlight, please email the Oppy staff at Oppy@stern.nyu.edu.