Brothers complete A.A. degrees in one year; headed to UF
Anas Saeed Saeed Ahmed and his brother, Maaz Saeed Saeed Ahmed, enrolled at Palm Beach State College as international students from Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2018, determined to complete their Associate in Arts transfer degrees in one year.
After taking as many as six or more classes each term, which required special permission, they are set to graduate together on Dec. 19. They both have been accepted to the University of Florida for the spring semester to pursue bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into this College, and to see it all play out like this is an amazing feeling to say the least,’’ said Maaz Saeed, 19.
“We basically started taking six courses every semester. We started with five and got a high GPA in order to take more,’’ Anas Saeed, 21, said. “We had a goal set no matter how many courses we had to take.”
Earning a good college education has been a dream for the Pakistani brothers, who were born and raised in Dubai, and their passion and commitment runs deep. Their father, Saeed Ahmed Abdulmajeed, who traveled from Dubai for the graduation, only completed one year of high school. He left Pakistan for Kuwait when he was 17 and then moved to Dubai a few years later to build a better life for himself as a businessman. He said not having more than a high school education meant that he struggled initially. When he and his wife married and had their three sons, including their oldest son who graduated from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, he was determined to pave a way for them to get an education.
“I feel that education must be a priority. I made a plan in my mind,” Abdulmajeed said. “I feel very proud. I’m really happy to see my sons here. I came here especially for their graduation,” he added, noting that his trip to see his sons cross the stage to accept their degrees took 31 hours with flight delays and a layover.
The brothers graduated from an American high school in Dubai a year apart in 2016 and 2017. Initially, they each enrolled at the University of Ottawa in Canada—Anas Saeed for a year and Maaz Saeed for one semester—but they soon realized that it was not the best fit for them. Then a friend from Dubai who was attending Palm Beach State College as an international student suggested that they join him in Florida. They contacted PBSC’s Office of International Admissions and began the process. Maaz Saeed took his first classes in the summer 2018 and his brother started in the fall that year.
They acclimated well and co-founded in 2018 Humanitarian Chemists, a student club at the Boca Raton campus that works with professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on projects related to cleaning up Florida lakes. They both were named to the Dean’s List and were inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, which requires at least a 3.5 grade point average. In addition, Maaz Saeed was nominated by faculty and received the Academic Excellence Award in Chemistry last spring, and he was named to the President’s List.
Dana Hamadeh, associate dean of academic affairs at the Boca Raton campus, said the College does not recommend such heavy course loads for students, but she allowed it for them. “It’s not common or encouraged, but these are two exceptional students who have proven that they can handle it, and they have consistently demonstrated success and commitment to their education.”
Anas Saeed, who is interested in the renewable energy field, and Maaz Saeed, who wants to work in recycling, acknowledged that taking a big course load is not for the faint of heart. They plan to pace themselves more at UF.
“It’s been a crazy ride because we’ve taken so many courses and sacrificed so much time,” Maaz Saeed said. “The kind of personality we have is that if we put our minds to something, it’s really difficult for us not to achieve it. Our work ethic is what really defines us. We work really well under pressure.”
Videography by Caroline Sheikhnia.