An Du and Lojain Hamed will be seniors this fall at Moore, and that’s not all the friends and classmates have in common.
Both are transfer students, having met at the Community College of Philadelphia. Both took classes to improve their English-speaking skills. Both are studying interior design. And both women commute to classes at Moore.
An Du is Vietnamese. Lojain Hamed is Syrian.
“I think Lojain and I, we have a little bit of trouble with language and culture differences,” An said. “I think that’s why in the class it’s helped. It makes me and Lojain closer than anybody else because we understand where we come from and what is hard for us.”
“She’s the closest friend with me now, because we came from the same community college,” Lojain said. “We really love to help each other. She always reminds me of assignments, and if she needs help with a program like SketchUp, she know’s I’m good in those things, so I always fix her problem.”
DESIGNING THEIR FUTURE
An and Lojain were interested in interior design from a young age.
“I had a lot of questions for my parents – why did you use that color for the carpet, the furniture?” An said. “They were so tired of answering all of my questions.”
Her parents tried to talk her out of it, nudging her to study nursing or some other health-related career, telling her she wouldn’t be able to support herself with a degree in interior design. An studied business management for two years at a university in Vietnam, then the family moved to the United States in 2010, when she was 20. She wasn’t fluent in English, and took English as a Second Language classes at CCP. She also began studying interior design.
“Then they started to see my work,” An said. “I remember one time my dad checked my project, and he said, ‘You did that?’ I said yes, I did that, Dad. He said, ‘That looks awesome.’ After they, they did not say anything more about worrying about my career, my future.”
Lojain, the youngest of six children, grew up in Saudia Arabia, and moved to the U.S. four years ago to go to college.
“When I was very young, my mom – she’s really into decoration – she used to take me to pick up fabrics and I used to help her,” Lojain said.
Lojain lives in Northeast Philadelphia with a brother. She also has a brother in Ohio, and her parents and two brothers still live in Saudi Arabia. Her sister lives in Canada.
“My mom has to travel all around Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Canada to see all of us. We can’t gather all in one space,” she said. “And you know how things are getting worse for Syrians.”
She has relatives on her father’s side who moved to Italy and Germany to escape the war in Syria, but some aunts and uncles still live in Syria. The last time Lojain visited Syria was nine years ago.
Lojain said she had big adjustments to make when she moved to the U.S., including learning to drive a car.
“I moved to another country that has another language, another culture and everything was different,” she said. “Responsibility was another big issue. In Saudi Arabia, my father used to take care of the health insurance, the government papers, even driving. Women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia. I came here to a new responsibility, to the real life, for the first time.”
COMING TO MOORE
An and Lojain bonded over their shared experiences in the U.S., and helped each other through their classes at CCP.
They learned of Moore through Design Chair Kathryn Dethier, who came to a showing of their designs at CCP.
“Kathryn saw my work and thought it was very interesting,” Lojain said. “She really influenced me to come to Moore.”
“I came here a couple of times and talked to Kathryn,” An said. “The thing I really like about Moore is that we are really close. I think only at Moore you talk to your professor like your friend. You call them by their first name.”
An and Lojain enjoy participating in fun activities together. Their design team won a ‘gingerbread’ house-building contest in December for their construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater using graham crackers, ice cream cones and candy canes.
The two look forward to their final undergraduate year at Moore. An would like to work in commercial interior design, while Lojain is interested in both residential and commercial design.