A remarkable journey from refugee to engineering intern

His resume is unconventional – shepherd, camel herder, refugee and university student – but Hassan is now on the cusp of a new career as an electrical engineer and hopes to one day share his expertise to make an impact in his community in Chad

18 Aug 2023

The interrogation in Tobruk, Libya, marked a turning point in Hassan Eissa’s life.

He had just finished yet another treacherous walk herding hundreds of camels across the Sahara Desert from his native Chad to Libya when he found himself in the midst of civil war. The detention and interrogation by Libyan guards was unexpected.

“The guards took my friend and me in a room and asked us a lot of questions,” he said. “It was very scary. One of the guards was pointing a gun at us.”

Hassan and his friend, then teenagers, were released after convincing the guards that they were simple camel caravanners and not partisans in the civil war. They immediately headed east toward Egypt and a United Nations refugee camp, where they spent the next three years.

Always adaptable

Hassan’s journey through life – from shepherd with no formal education to camel herder, refugee, university student, elite collegiate runner and his life today on the cusp of a new career as an electrical engineer – is remarkable by any standard. He spent his summer as an intern on our semiconductor packaging team – one of more than 2,400 students globally whose work is helping shape the future of technology – before he completes his bachelor’s degree at Rochester Institute of Technology.

His secret?

“I persevere, I’m determined and I can adapt to any environment,” he said.

Adapting to his environment was something Hassan learned at an early age.

He was born to a large family in Chad, a country in north-central Africa, that practiced nomadic pastoralism. They herded livestock to open pastures for grazing and grew fruit and crops as the seasons changed. The closest source of drinking water for their family and livestock, a deep well where they drew water with buckets, was a 60-mile roundtrip walk.

“When I was young, my sisters and I would leave in the middle of the night with our goats, walk to the well to collect water and return to our village the following evening,” he said.

In 2007, he joined a caravan of camel herders, spending years making dangerous trips across the desert between Chad and Libya. The civil war and his detention changed the arc of his life.

“We lost our camels and everything we had built,” he said. “I was very fearful and started thinking that I had to leave the country. It was no longer safe.”

Life in the refugee camp wasn’t easy.

Image of Hassan
Hassan lived in a United Nations refugee camp for three years before immigrating to the U.S.

“You don’t know what is happening,” he said. “But you hope that, one day, you’ll be able to go to another country to find a job.”

Engineering a path forward

Hassan’s dream came true when the United Nations selected him for relocation to the United States. Although he lacked a formal education and didn’t speak English, he had a strong desire to learn.

In Baltimore, Md., he took English classes and excelled in his studies. He completed his General Educational Development (GED) credential as a pre-apprentice electrician helper in three years.

With the support of a mentor, he was accepted to Harford Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in general studies and ran competitively on the cross-country team. His hands-on electrical experience allowed him to continue his education at Rochester Institute of Technology with a major in electrical engineering.

 “As a child, I had limited access to technology, but I loved playing with flashlights and seeing how the batteries produced power to light up the bulb,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed hands-on things, so electrical engineering was a natural fit.”

Building a career

During a college career fair in 2022, Hassan connected with a TI recruiter, who encouraged him to apply for a summer internship at our campus in Dallas. After an interview, Hassan accepted an offer and packed his bags for Texas.

Hassan says his unique upbringing helped him prepare for this moment.

“It’s perseverance and all the things I have been through to get here," he said. “I can work with almost everyone and feel comfortable sharing my experiences and perspective.”

Now a fourth-year student, Hassan gained a deeper knowledge of engineering and the semiconductor industry during his time at TI. He says the learning experience has been amazing.

“The people at TI are great,” he said. “Everyone, from my manager to my colleagues, have supported me throughout my internship. Their willingness to answer my questions and provide feedback have been invaluable to my growth and development as a professional.”

Hassan enjoyed working on meaningful projects, including developing and analyzing semiconductor packaging technologies that help solve customer challenges. His internship also gave him the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a lab, which enhanced his engineering knowledge.

Despite the Texas heat, Hassan kept a disciplined running routine over the summer. Although he doesn’t run competitively for school anymore, his competitive spirit hasn’t slowed down. He recently ran a half marathon and won first place in the men’s division with a 5:38 finishing pace. His next goal: qualify for the 2024 Boston Marathon.

“You don’t know what is happening,” he said. “But you hope that, one day, you’ll be able to go to another country to find a job.”

Engineering a path forward

Hassan’s dream came true when the United Nations selected him for relocation to the United States. Although he lacked a formal education and didn’t speak English, he had a strong desire to learn.

In Baltimore, Md., he took English classes and excelled in his studies. He completed his General Educational Development (GED) credential as a pre-apprentice electrician helper in three years.

With the support of a mentor, he was accepted to Harford Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in general studies and ran competitively on the cross-country team. His hands-on electrical experience allowed him to continue his education at Rochester Institute of Technology with a major in electrical engineering.

 “As a child, I had limited access to technology, but I loved playing with flashlights and seeing how the batteries produced power to light up the bulb,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed hands-on things, so electrical engineering was a natural fit.”

Building a career

During a college career fair in 2022, Hassan connected with a TI recruiter, who encouraged him to apply for a summer internship at our campus in Dallas. After an interview, Hassan accepted an offer and packed his bags for Texas.

Hassan says his unique upbringing helped him prepare for this moment.

“It’s perseverance and all the things I have been through to get here," he said. “I can work with almost everyone and feel comfortable sharing my experiences and perspective.”

Now a fourth-year student, Hassan gained a deeper knowledge of engineering and the semiconductor industry during his time at TI. He says the learning experience has been amazing.

“The people at TI are great,” he said. “Everyone, from my manager to my colleagues, have supported me throughout my internship. Their willingness to answer my questions and provide feedback have been invaluable to my growth and development as a professional.”

Hassan enjoyed working on meaningful projects, including developing and analyzing semiconductor packaging technologies that help solve customer challenges. His internship also gave him the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a lab, which enhanced his engineering knowledge.

Despite the Texas heat, Hassan kept a disciplined running routine over the summer. Although he doesn’t run competitively for school anymore, his competitive spirit hasn’t slowed down. He recently ran a half marathon and won first place in the men’s division with a 5:38 finishing pace. His next goal: qualify for the 2024 Boston Marathon.

Image of Hassan running

Shaping the future back home

Hassan hopes to use the skills and knowledge he gained at our company and at school to improve the life of his community in Chad.

“As a child, I struggled a lot,” he said. “I don’t want that struggle to transfer to the next generation.”

He plans to visit Chad after graduation. His goal is to design an automatic water pump powered by solar energy to improve access to drinking water for villagers in his hometown.

“I love being involved here and having all of this knowledge,” he said. “But it’s not a success if I don’t give it back. For me, being successful is only important if I have some impact on my community.”

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