Mina Samaan has faced loss, poverty and persecution.
A determination to improve his life and give back to others has propelled the graduating senior to complete his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Indiana University East School of Nursing and Health Sciences this month.
Born and raised four hours south of Cairo, Egypt, Samaan dreamed of a better life. He lived with his family of five in a small apartment that did not have hot water, air conditioning or a furnace, though temperatures can dip into the upper 40s during the winter. The family didn’t own a television. He slept on the couch in the main living area. His parents, both engineers, made a combined salary of about $4,000 per year.
“We struggled,” Samaan said. “I come from a place where poverty is just awful. No matter how highly educated you are, you can still live in poverty.”
The family, who are Christians, also faced persecution for their religion.
“Growing up in Egypt as a Christian, you face a lot of persecution,” Samaan said. “You’re identified by your name, by your birth certificate, your ID, it’s mentioned everywhere.”
Before moving to the United States, he followed in his parents’ footsteps and studied as an engineer at the Thebes Higher Institute for Engineering in Cairo, where as a student he again faced oppression. An instructor refused to pass him solely because he had a Christian name.
Three years before applying for his Visa, the challenges at school continued. And tragically, a bus accident claimed the lives of friends and family.
“Then 10 months to the day, my mother passed away. At that time my sister was in the States, my brother was in Australia. I felt that I had lost everything, so I took the steps and applied for my Visa.”
The application process to get a Visa, Samaan said, is extremely difficult. The issues of getting a Visa focused primarily on income and affordability of travel and moving to the states, the different value in currency of Egyptian and American dollars, and international security, he said. “To apply, itself, costs a lot of money,” he said.
Samaan made the choice to apply for his Visa at the Embassy of the United States in Egypt. He remembers the day exactly – October 28, 2010. The process was agony.
“The interview went terribly bad,” Samaan said. “When the interviewer came back with my application, she was just staring at me and my paperwork; and then I see a stamp going on my paperwork and I felt like my heart was dropping with it. But she said my Visa was accepted. She was pretty much deciding my life.”
Relieved that he could fulfill his dream, Samaan moved to New Jersey in 2011. While there, he met college students from Ball State University who were living there for the summer. “We became good friends,” Samaan said. “I was living in New Jersey by myself. My friend invited me to move to Muncie so that I could be around friends and have a good church to go to,” he said. So, the following summer, he moved to the Midwest and got a job at Ball Memorial Hospital.
“Working at Ball Memorial is where I met a lot of nurses who graduated from here (IU East), and they told me about the school,” Samaan said.
Seeing the differences in health care in the United States versus the impoverished health care system in Egypt opened Samaan’s eyes to the possibility of what he could do for others.
“When I got the job at Ball and I really saw nursing first-hand, I thought, ‘This is so cool. I would love to do something with that,’ I decided to get into nursing,” he said.
In fall 2014, he enrolled at IU East.
Samaan is interested in two fields of nursing: medical missions and ER. As a nurse in the missions field, he would have the opportunity to travel world-wide to provide medical care to those in need. A few years ago, he went on a mission trip to the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The mission group traveled with four doctors from the United States to provide medical care, vitamins, antibiotics and malaria medications.
“It was hands-down the best experience of my life,” Samaan said. “You travel halfway across the world to help a people that have nothing. And to be there, to tell them that we care about you and that you matter, it’s just absolutely rewarding.”
As a nursing student at IU East, he traveled on the annual mission trip to Chinle, Arizona, as well as the New York and Washington, D.C., trips in 2016. The trips immerse students into poverty, cultural diversity and community medicine to serve patients and gain nursing skills and real-world knowledge.
Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences Karen Clark said Samaan has been a great addition to the B.S.N. program and the community.
“Mina pursued his dream for a better life and in the process, bettered the lives of so many others by being here,” Clark said. “As a student on our Chinle trip this year, he enhanced our learning about culture and compassion. I so appreciate his calm and caring approach to his peers and patients. I know he will continue to make positive contributions to the nursing profession.”
While completing his undergraduate degree, Samaan has been employed at Reid Health as a nursing student/NCT. In his role, he works with patients to draw their blood for tests, start IVs, do EKGs and general nursing.
Shelly Burns, lecturer in nursing at IU East, said Samaan has been a pleasure to work with.
“Mina is clearly grateful for any opportunities set before him. I especially admire his positive spirit and willingness to help people,” Burns said. “He has shared with me often about how blessed he is to be here in the states. Everyone learns from him because he is always willing to share his culture compared to ours. I have never seen a student work harder in school, and at his job, than Mina. He said to me, ‘If you need my help, I will never tell you no.’”
Samaan said the RN program through the School of Nursing and Health Sciences challenged him as a student, and with English as a second language, he said courses have at times been difficult. Outside the classroom, he worked full-time so that he could provide his own housing, pay for utilities and necessities as well as insurance.
He’s also completed the process to become a naturalized citizen.
“I became a happy American citizen in February 2017,” Samaan said. “I always dreamed of living in the states. Always.”
His hard work and determination is paying off.
He now has family close by. His sister, Lydia, lives with him in Richmond. He stays connected to his brother, who lives in Australia, and his father continues to live in Egypt.
After graduation, Samaan has been offered a full-time position as a nurse in the ER at Reid Health. In the future, he hopes to pursue medical missions.
“I came from a part of the world that is so poor. People don’t have access to anything, not because of their choice but because of their circumstances,” Samaan said. “I came from a similar area, so if I don’t start to give back, I feel that would be just a shame.”