Adel Elkrry, graduate student
“We are all human. We are all the same.”
With that, Adel Elkrry, a Ph.D. candidate in geological engineering from Libya, sums up his thoughts on the conflict that has ravaged his home country since 2011 and brought about the rise of the Islamic State.
Born to organic farmers in Al-Asaba, a small town some 50 miles from Tripoli, Elkrry, his wife, and baby daughter moved to America in 2009 so that he could further his education.
At the time, Elkrry was working as a teacher’s assistant in the geology department at his alma mater in Libya, Al Jabal Al Gharbi University. The university offered to sponsor him in his quest for a Ph.D. in geological engineering from a university of his choosing in America. Upon graduating, Al Jabal Al Gharbi had promised him a full-time position in the geology department.
The Arab Spring came two years later, and led to the Libyan Civil War, under which circumstances Al Jabal Al Gharbi was forced to close indefinitely. With the university closed, Elkrry’s scholarship funding was cut off, his promise of a full-time job gone.
“My university, where I was working, is closed now because of the war,” he says. “It’s so sad.”
Elkrry is set to graduate in May, but, without the promise of a full-time job, is in no rush to return to his war torn homeland.
For now, he’s happy to continue doing paid fieldwork in Springfield, Missouri, with his advisor, Dr. Neil Anderson, professor of geological engineering. They have been surveying a large tract of land for City Utilities of Springfield since July. The first phase of the project should be done by April, but if they get awarded a contract for the second phase of the project, it could last into 2016.
‘They want us to evaluate this area all the way down to the bedrock and see if there are anywidened joints, sinkholes or stuff like that,” Elkrry says.
The work keeps Elkrry in Springfield for up to six days at a time, which can be hard on him and his family, but they manage. Elkrry and his wife just had their fourth child, a baby boy.
The rest of Elkrry’s family still lives in Libya.
“My mother and father, and sisters and brothers are all there,” he says. “You can say they are safe, but the civil war is taking place all around them.”
Elkrry says getting ahold of his family can be difficult.
“We keep in touch, but even communication isn’t easy,” he says. “Where my family’s living at exactly they don’t have internet. But we talk on the phone.”
But even that can be hard.
“Sometimes, during the day, electricity is off for four or five hours at least,” he says.
As if traveling for field work, working on his Ph.D., and taking care of his family weren’t enough, Elkrry is also a member of several student organizations: the Muslim Student Association, the Libyan Student Association and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.
Elkrry is thankful to go to a school with a significant number of Libyan students with whom he can relate to. “If you couldn’t find your people, the people you share customs with, you’d be pretty lonely,” he says.
In fact, he first learned about S&T from his friend and colleague at Al Jabal Al Gharbi University, Abdullah Dera. The two now work in the same geological engineering lab.
But, the thing he likes most about S&T and the state of Missouri is its natural beauty. “It’s so green – rivers, streams, lakes,” he says.
Growing up in the arid Middle East, Elkrry had never seen such green in his life. That isn’t to say that his father’s farm in rural Libya doesn’t have a beauty all its own.
“He raises lambs, goats and chickens. He has olive trees. Apple, grape and fig trees,” Elkrry says. “And it’s all organic.”
Elkrry says that his family in Libya is not involved in the civil war. They are simple farmers, and just want to carry on a way of life that has been with them for generations.