Global Alumni Spotlight: Mohammed Al-Aufi

July 12, 2021

This story is part of a series of profiles on Penn State’s international alumni. This series was created for the Global Penn State Newsletter, which includes updates, information and stories about Penn State’s global activities.

To sign up for the quarterly newsletter, click here: https://global.psu.edu/content/newsletter.

Mohammed Al-Aufi graduated from Penn State with a degree in chemical engineering in 2018. After a short stint in the field, the pandemic altered the course of his career, and he recently opened a coffee shop in Oman, dedicated in many ways to his sister. His time at Penn State was formative in both his engineering and coffee careers.

Can you tell us a little bit about your time here at Penn State as an international student?  

I joined Penn State in 2014 and graduated in 2018 with a degree in chemical engineering. During my time at Penn State, I enjoyed going on volunteering trips and to summer leadership camps. I also enjoyed hanging out with friends in places like Saints café and Rothrock. Alongside my class work, I held multiple part-time positions in International Students Orientation. Basically, the time I spent in State College and Penn State allowed me to explore a lot of things about myself and about others.  

What have you been up to since graduating in 2018?  

I accepted a job offer from Schlumberger a week before graduation to come back to the U.S. and work in the oilfield in Texas. I was scheduled to start in December of 2018 and there was a seven-months period between graduation and starting my job. Therefore, I went home to relax and celebrate for few weeks. I then worked on managing a small coffee shop and bakery business for few months.  

I went back to the U.S. in November to complete my hiring process and started my job with Schlumberger in December of 2018. I spent around 10 months in Texas before I was transferred to North Dakota in October of 2019. I was not required to live in North Dakota since I was working a 2week/2week shift, so I moved back to State College with my younger brother Hamza. Hamza is a junior at Penn State. I worked in North Dakota until the COVID-19 outbreak. In March, the oil and gas industry took a great dive due to COVID-19 outbreak and the price war between Saudi and Russia. I was terminated on March 23, 2020, and decided to move back to Oman. 

Once I was in Oman, I took some time to rest to regain my energy and wait for the COVID-19 situation to improve. I had this idea of Nasaq (my coffee shop) since late 2016 and I decided to pursue it after re-evaluating the market. I co-founded Nasaq with Saif Alhadidi, a friend of mine. We started putting paperwork into reality in September of 2020 and we opened the shop on May 30 of 2021. It was a long journey, but we made it and we are glad that our first month in operations was success. Last week, I accepted a job offer to go back to the oil field in Oman with Halliburton.   

How does someone with a background in chemical engineering end up opening a café? How has the direction of your career and you’re your professional aspirations changed over time? 

Well, coffee is something I like a lot and I discovered this obsession when I was in Penn State. I grew up in a very small town and we did not have any coffee shops. The first time I remember trying Starbucks was in the HUB in 2014. When I was a freshman, my roommate used to take me for breakfast in a coffee shop and we had iced caramel lattes (No regrets) every morning. However, the first time I was introduced to specialty coffee was in 2015 when I visited Saints for the first time. My friend invited me over and he ordered me a latte. I was fascinated by how smooth the milk foam was and how tasty and sweet the drink was. I enjoyed it so much and I kept visiting Saints more frequently. I started reading about specialty coffee and little by little it became an obsession. I was extremely happy to visit Rothrock when they opened! I love their coffee and vibe so much. I even imported some of Rothrock’s coffee beans last year, but I’ve stopped due to shipping complications.

However, Nasaq is not only about coffee itself. Nasaq holds the memory of my beloved sister. Everyone close to my sister remembers her with her love to art and crafts. When I was at Penn State, I was inspired by my professor Elizabeth Brady to turn the negative energy I had due to the passing of my sister into something positive that honors her. Therefore, I came up with idea of making Nasaq a coffee shop that attracts artists to come in and practice their art in a fully equipped environment.  

The coffee shop is really divided into three parts. The first part is the seating area, which is optimized for relaxing and hanging out with friends during breaks for a cup of coffee. The second part is the coffee bar area. The third part is the art space, and that is where artists hang out to paint, practice calligraphy or make any type of art crafts. The art space is optimized for artist completely. It has shelves where we put all types of colors, brushes, papers, canvases and other products and accessories. It also has a separate area with a sink for artist to clean their tools after use as well as lockers to keep their tools. 

What does it mean to you to be a Penn Stater/Penn State alumnus? 

Actually, I am very grateful for the journey I had in Penn State and the U.S. in general. It means a lot. It made me gradually gain skills and insight into the things I enjoy doing the most. 

If you had one piece of advice for current international students, what would it be? 

When my younger brother got admitted to Penn State in 2019, I told him to seek all opportunities that he can and invest his time into making good connections, working and exploring himself.

 

Last Updated July 20, 2021